Saturday, May 14, 2016

Prairie Appreciation Day

     Here in Thurston county, at the southern end of Budd inlet in Washington state, we are fortunate to have some beautiful, very unique prairies.  Historically, this land was covered with trees, especially Douglas fir trees.  However the southern reach of the county marks the final boundary of the last Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. 
Gray Hairstreak butterfly on cotoneaster flowers

     As the ice field bulldozed south, it removed all living plants and left huge piles of gravel behind in what is today called a gravel outwash prairie.

     Once the ice retreated, these gravel areas became home to a unique set of plants and animals.  Rather than trees, these prairies are dominated by grasses such as Idaho fescue, and flowers such as camas.  The indigenous tribes of the area:  the Nisqually, the  Puyallup and others used these prairies as agricultural fields, burning them regularly to keep the trees back and keep their food and medicine plants thriving.

     These prairies are still alive.  Once a year, we celebrate them.  Glen and I will be staffing an informational table on butterflies (it turns out that there are butterflies very specialized to these prairies).  

Here is a link on Prairie Appreciation Day:

Here is a link to information about these unique prairies:

If you are interested in learning more about butterflies in the Pacific Northwest, here is a link to our resource page:  Butterflies -- Resources 2016

Resources:  photo by Nancy Partlow