How deep do they go?
Did you know that butterfly milkweed's roots grow up to 12 feet deep, about the height of an African elephant?
We look at prairie plants and can hardly imagine the amazing root systems that are growing beneath our feet. Those roots help to draw water down into the watershed, which cleans it before it enters our lakes. Those roots also help the plant find enough water in droughts and keep them alive when the tops burn during prairie fires. Those deep roots make our native plants the strongest and healthiest options out there.
So just how deep are some of these plants roots?
A compass plant's roots reach up to 15 feet below the surface, that's three Kourtney Kardashians standing on top of each other.
Pale purple coneflower roots grow up to 5 feet in depth, the same as 8 pencils standing end to end.
Indian grass grows 9-foot roots, about the size of three single mattresses laid side to side.
Little Bluestem has a 6-foot root system, the same thickness of a stack of 18,000 sheets of paper.
See what below the surface with the Prairie Roots exhibit inside the Dickinson County Nature Center, and then try out the challenge below.
Measure out lines of 6 feet, 12 feet and 15 feet on the floor, representing different depths of prairie roots. Have your children lay down on the floor next to the lines to see how many of them it takes to reach the bottom of the root.
Teddy the turtle's shell is about 4 inches long, the same as lawn grass roots in Iowa when we plant exotic species such as Kentucky bluegrass. Plant natives and your grass will grow better roots!
What is a watershed?
The augmented reality sandbox in the Dickinson County Nature Center has been a hit since it was installed. The exhibit talks about watersheds and how water moves through the landscape, but do you really understand what a watershed is? Let’s answer some questions about watersheds. What is a watershed? A watershed is an area of Read More »Read More
Plants protect themselves from the winter cold
Each autumn, the world outside is getting ready for a change. Birds are migrating to find warmer wintering grounds. Mammals are eating a lot to increase their fatty insulation and are putting food away for the winter. Trees are dropping their leaves and going dormant. (Read about that here) What about other plants though? How Read More »Read More
7 reasons why the IRVM program is important to Dickinson County
Iowa was one of the first states to establish an Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management program. Since its inception in the 1970s, more than 50,000 acres of federal, state, county and city roadsides have been planted to native grasses and wildflowers. (Read about the state program here.) Dickinson County began its IRVM program in 2015, and Read More »Read More
How prairie plants disperse seed
As a kid, we all picked a puffy dandelion and blew the wisps into the air. Little did we think that we were actually helping dandelions disperse their seeds. Dandelions and other plants only survive when their seeds are dispersed so that new plants grow the next season. They spread through a variety of ways Read More »Read More
10 surprisingly not-so-good plants for your garden
Often, we think if a plant is pretty, has flowers and is colorful, it’s great for the garden. We often assume it’s also great for pollinators. Flowers have pollen and nectar, right? So it must be good for pollinators. However, there are some plants that are surprisingly not-so-good for pollinators. It could simply have nothing Read More »Read More
Prairie plant roots help water quality
Native prairie plants make wonderful habitat for wildlife like voles, turkeys, rabbits, ground squirrels, hawks and foxes. They provide both habitat and food sources for tiny creatures such as monarch butterflies, bumblebees and milkweed beetles. They are beautiful to look at. However, they are also important in a way that we can’t see. Deep down Read More »Read More
If you like calla lilies, plant Jack in the pulpit
Take a walk through a garden center, and it’s easy to get swept away by all of the exotic flowers that you can plant in your yard. However, we always encourage people to think native when planting a garden, and fall is a great time to plant native prairie seedlings in your yard as they Read More »Read More
Five plants to start your pollinator garden
You’ve learned that pollinator populations are dwindling and that you can help by planting native species in your garden to provide habitat and food sources. But what do you plant? It can be overwhelming to look at all the options of native flowers that you can put in your garden. It’s even a lot for Read More »Read More