Monday, July 19, 2010

Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Prairie Plant-apalooza

Twig lives in and around the Wooster campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, where he enjoys the prairie plant in Secrest Arboretum. His alter ego is Kurt Knebusch, one of our super-talented writers and editors on campus. Each month, look for Twig to answer a reader questions and some additional interesting facts below. After Twig's post, we will be providing some ideas and suggestions on how to incorporate the info in Twig's column into fun science learning for your students and children.

Q. Twig: What's with all the prairie plants? I'm seeing special sales of them. There's a whole garden full at my school. I'm waiting to see a buffalo! What gives?

A. You're right. Prairie plants are getting more popular. One reason is that more gardeners are interested in native plants -- in this case, plants that are natural to North America. (A lot of U.S. garden plants were imported from Europe and Asia.)

Another reason is that prairie plants are easy to care for. They're perennials -- they come back every year -- so you plant them only once. They shade and crowd out weeds, so you rarely if ever have to hoe them. And they don't mind hot, dry weather, so you don't have to water them (except when they're young), unlike a green, grassy lawn.

Also, prairie plants give food and shelter to birds and butterflies. Walkingsticks, too!

A downside, of course, is that you can't play baseball on them. Bob the Bug keeps getting lost.

What are some prairie plants? Wildflowers like purple coneflower and black-eyed Susan and grasses like big bluestem and Indian grass.

Great names. Great plants. Great Plains. You, too, can have a little house on the prairie! Or a big one! Or a modest, well-kept bungalow!

Using this information for education:
There are tons of ways to learn about prairies! First, the most obvious is to visit somewhere where there are prairie plants! One such place is Secrest Arboretum on OARDC's Wooster campus. We have a mega-cool prairie plant garden in the arboretum. Admission is free and open to the public seven days a week during daylight hours. Most of the plants in the garden are labeled with their common and scientific name...which means you'll actually know what plants you look at enjoy.

There are also tons of great lesson plans available on our North American native prairies:

Teacherlink has several social studies lessons
National Geographic's Incredible Prairie Picture Show
Illinois State Museum's Historic Native American Plant Dyes
Discover Education's The American Prairie
Living Roadway Trust Fund of Iowa's Create a Prairie Roadside

And that just scratches the surface! So get out there, explore and enjoy our native prairie plants!! Summer is their season of glory!

Our Homeschool Home


  1. Great resources! I grew up in South Dakota (about 25 miles from DeSmet of Little House on the Prairie fame!) and love learning about prairie plants.

  2. Thank you for sharing! Stopping by Mingle Monday!

  3. This is wonderful information and gorgeous photographs! Thanks for sharing it all!

    I'm glad you joined in on Mingle Monday. Have a great week.



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