Earlier in the week I attended a course at the Mt. Cuba Center on Meadow Studies. First off I need to put a little disclaimer here; I made like 3 wrong turns getting there and arrived 10 minutes late for the class. I found the title of the course to be a little misleading but the description was accurate. It basically boiled down to "Hay here are some plants blooming now. Let's go look at them." And there's nothing wrong with that but I feel the tone was a little off for a class on meadows.
After reading books like The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States (Bur Oak Book) by Chris Helzer, who blogs by the way, I came into the course expecting things to be different.
Basically a healthy meadow consists of 150 to 300 plant species. The Mt. Cuba Center seems to run their meadow differently. I think it's correct to say they're trying to maintain a specific look rather than allowing it to go through a natural succession. Other than removing trees now and again I'd say they don't allow their plant species to change over time.
To comment on the tone of the course a little I noticed there was almost no talk of succession. The instructor mentions the Rudbeckia hirta, Black-eyed Susan, will reseed itself around but they didn't mention why. Again this leads me to believe they're more interested in maintaining a certain look as opposed to being a course on prairie preservation. There is a follow up course I'm attending next month so I might be wrong about this.
There was a discussion on installation of a meadow and some good pointers given by the instructor but this was only after someone asked about it. Not planting plugs to warm season grasses in the fall was among the smarter things mentioned. As these species only grow when the soil is warm they won't do anything in the fall or winter and typically die as a result.
I look forward to the second course next month. Again, I showed up 10 minutes late so there could be a whole discussion I missed. For a good read, if not a little boring though I recommend The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States (Bur Oak Book).