There is an ancient prairie in Pennsylvania.
The prairie, a rarity in our forested and pastoral state, was once part of the ecosystem which stretched into the Midwest. This remaining 20 acres of native grasses and flowers, surrounded by woodland, is named for Otto Emery Jennings and is part of The Jennings Environmental Education Center near the town of Butler.
I was one of a group of learners, all students of native plants and the prairie ecosystem, who visited Jennings last Saturday as part of a class sponsored by Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The class, enjoyed by all, was taught by Thelma Redick and Linda Kramer.
The focus of our study was to learn how to create and care for a prairie, how to incorporate a prairie into our landscape designs or, on a smaller scale, how to use native plants in our gardens. The beauty of Jennings Prairie inspired us!
The prairie is in glorious bloom. While the main colors of the moment are vibrant yellows, the most stunning color is purple - the purple of the Prairie Blazingstar Liatrus pycnostachya.
It is because of this plant that Jennings exists and thrives. This prairie became the first reserve created in Pennsylvania to protect an endangered plant, you guessed it, the Blazingstar. Jennings is now known for an abundance of this beauty.
Our class was eager to learn about the Blazingstar and all of the other inhabitants of this ecosystem.
Ox Eye False Sunflower Heliopsis helianthoides
Green Headed Coneflower Redbeckia laciniata
Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca
Bergamot Monarda fistulosa
To be continued...next post: More from Jennings, including Joe and the Massasuga Rattlesnake.