Sign 1 – GPS Coordinates 92.9039 W 45.0018 N
Trailhead at exit road intersection of prairie trail which runs westbound about 0.25 miles to Sign 2
This 17-acre prairie was restored by the City of Lake Elmo in 2010 using 29 different native plant species. To see individual plants of each species, turn right just beyond the pine trees toward the the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center. The short path around the nature center features examples of each of these 29 plants to help visitors identify those in the prairie.
This trail rises over a hill, where the dry-land plants flourish. A bench is placed there to allow a great view of the whole area. Then it dips into a low spot, which is often wetter, and hosts a different group of plant species. Watch for the closed earth mounds made by the tunneling of the plains pocket gopher, and the 2-3″ diameter open tunnels made by the 13-lined ground squirrels.
Stop #1 The Adaptable Prairie
Prairie plants have developed many beneficial adaptations that allow them to survive and thrive in a drier, treeless area. They typically have long, flexible stems that bend with the wind and narrower leaves that give up less moisture. For many native prairie plants, most of the plant actually exists underground in the form of an extensive root system. This allows the plants to get moisture from way down deep during the hot, dry and windy summer. In the event of a fire, most of the plant will still survive since their growth system is underground in the roots. Most of these plants are perennials, meaning they go dormant over the winter and then grow back from their root system year after year. Because they put so much energy into growing all those roots, they tend to have smaller flowers. Prairie fires actually are good for these plants as the fire removes old, dead matter and returns nutrients to the soil as well as killing off weeds and non-native plants that have shallow roots. To maintain a healthy prairie, the city now uses regular, controlled burns.