Aug 112013
 
Living Prairie Museum

Flowers in parking lot of Living Prairie Museum

A natural prairie preserve within the city of Winnipeg

Prior to European settlement, tall grass prairie covered one million square kilometres in central North America, stretching from Texas to southern Manitoba. Today, very little tall grass prairie remains. The Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, a 2,200 hectare preserve in south-eastern Manitoba, is the largest remaining remnant of this ecosystem.

A smaller 12 hectare preserve is located within the city of WinnipegThe Living Prairie Museum is home to over 160 species of native plants. Admission is free. A walk through the self-guided path takes 30 to 45 minutes. The museum is open May through August, with different plants in bloom each month. My most recent visit was in early August.

prairie and grass

The many types of native grasses contrast with the few types
in the playing field seen in the background. Most of the grass now grown within Winnipeg is non-native Kentucky bluegrass.

 

 

 

prairie and grass

The many types of native grasses contrast with the few types
in the playing field seen in the background. Most of the grass now grown within Winnipeg is non-native Kentucky bluegrass.

Living Prairie Museum in Winnipeg, Manitoba

A number of native prairie plants are silver in colour with small white hairs covering their stems and leaves. The silver colour is an adaptation to the hot and dry prairie. Silver reflects the sun’s light helping the plant stay cool and retain moisture. The area of Winnipeg in which the museum is located is called Silver Heights because of its higher elevation and the silvery colour of the plants.

Wild licorice

Wild licorice

In later summer, wild licorice plants are covered in burs, the seeds of the plants. The burs have tiny hooks that allow the seeds to “hitch-hike” on animals or clothing. Apparently, this was the inspiration for Velcro.

Living Prairie Museum homestead

At the far end of the prairie preserve is a shelter belt of tress and shrubs.
At one time this was a homestead.
The house is gone, but many of the non-native plants remain, a contrast to the natural prairie beside it.

Fire and mowing are used at Living Prairie Museum to manage the prairie community. Years ago, fires caused by lightning occurred naturally in hot, dry conditions. Burning reduces leaf litter build-up and restores nutrients. Prairie plants adapted to fire and developed deep roots. Burning discourages non-native plant species. Mowing provides similar results to that of having bison trample the small trees and spread seeds.

asters

asters

Showy goldenrod

Showy goldenrod

Wild bergamot

Wild bergamot

The narrow self-guided path has been created by a trampling down of the vegetation. If you are uncomfortable with plant leaves brushing bare legs as you pass, wear long pants. A prairie dog crossed the path just before I started my walk. On the walk, I was joined by butterflies and dragonflies, all too quick for my camera.

Living Prairie Museum Interpretative Centre

Living Prairie Museum Interpretative Centre

Information about the prairie ecosystem can be found in the Interpretative Centre. The museum holds special educational programs for children and families throughout the summer. Wildflower books and seeds are available for purchase.

Living Prairie Museum plants

A collection of images from The Living Prairie Museum

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