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Walk Where the Wildflowers Grow

6/29/2018 - Kate Field

Lake Michigan, Sports & Outdoors
Wildflower walks at the Chiwaukee Prairie in Kenosha, WI are relaxing and exciting.
Wildflower walks at the Chiwaukee Prairie in Kenosha, WI are relaxing and exciting.
Wildflower walks at the Chiwaukee Prairie in Kenosha, WI are relaxing and exciting.
Wildflower walks at the Chiwaukee Prairie in Kenosha, WI are relaxing and exciting.
Wildflower walks at the Chiwaukee Prairie in Kenosha, WI are relaxing and exciting.
Wildflower walks at the Chiwaukee Prairie in Kenosha, WI are relaxing and exciting.

Does your interest in flower gardening include something more than the usual petunias, geranium and hosta? Does your idea of a garden walk move beyond the sidewalk and require sturdy shoes? I invited my husband to join me on a wildflower walk and the first thing he said when we got there was ‘This is it’? It took him a minute to appreciate the subtle beauty of this place, but once he did he was hooked. The place we stopped was the Chiwaukee Prairie. We go often now to view the changing scene of wildflowers and bird songs, and to carve some peace and quiet out of our hectic summer days.

Chiwaukee Prairie is an ecological jewel in the crown of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shoreline and the largest remaining parcel of prairie left untouched by the plow in Wisconsin. The prairie is an outdoor laboratory for both professional and student botanists, ornithologists, entomologists and naturalists the world over and has been identified as a “wetland of international importance”. Countless volunteer hours have been spent preserving and protecting this prairie owned and managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Unlike other urban parks with mowed turf, playground equipment and flower beds, this site is kept as the “mesic lake prairie” it formed 4,000 years ago. The result is a diverse tapestry of constantly changing wildflowers and grasses blooming in drifts from May through October. 

My May wildflower walk with Kay McClelland, a local Naturalist began with stormy skies clearing to blue and puffy clouds retreating to edge Lake Michigan in the background. The prairie was covered with flowers and Kay pointed out plants blooming with names like ‘shooting star’, ‘blue eyed grass’, ‘spiderwort’ and ‘hoary pucoon’. She provided interesting historical information about these plants, such as how they were used by the early settlers and Native Americans and the ecological niche each plant occupies. So, this is more than just a wildflower walk, it’s a lesson in ecology, history, geology and botany. We walked about half a mile over fairly-level ground. A reminder to all, this is a nature area, not a hiking trail – guests are encouraged to enjoy the scenery but asked to be respectful and not disturb nature. It was great to go with Kay to get my ‘lay of the land’. Visiting a month later, I found the prairie growing tall and lush after our rainy spring. The area really does change between seasons – so dress accordingly. 

The Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund helps manage the prairie, fundraise, and organizes volunteer activities such as field trips, wildflower walks, and volunteer days. Volunteer days provide the opportunity to learn about native plants and help control the invasive or ‘introduced’ species that try to take over natural lands. If you love to garden or want to learn more about the area, these are open to anyone who wishes to sign up. Volunteer days happen on the third Saturday of each month. Naturalist Kay McClelland leads guided walks of the prairie on the third Mondays of each month from 6 – 8 p.m,, and third Thursday and Saturday of each month from 9 – 11 a.m., May through September.  The groups meet at the intersection of 121st Street and 2nd Avenue. Travel south from Kenosha on Sheridan Road (Hwy 31) and turn left (East) on 116th Street and park on 2nd Avenue. Pro Tip: Wear sturdy walking shoes and long pants for the walks. 

The Chiwaukee Prairie is a beautiful place to walk, connect with nature, and relax when in the Kenosha Area. Enjoy your wildflower walk!

 

Community Blog Team 2018

Kate Field

Community Blogger

Plant nut, garden guru, horticulturist. I continue to be enchanted by the world of nature and love all things outdoorsy! My favorite color is Green. 

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