The Prairie at Compass

The Prairie at Compass

The “Prairie at Compass” is a native prairie restoration effort aimed at creating learning opportunities for our students, improving the health of our local wildlife community, and reducing maintenance for the district. Students will be able to engross themselves in the landscape, gaining exposure to tangible scientific concepts, literary allusions, history, artistic studies, and more. The landscape produces grasses and flowering plants, including Little Blue Stem, Black-Eyed Susan, and Purple Cone Flower, among many others. Prairie landscapes support a wide variety of insects, birds, and other types of animals which will enjoy the rich habitat, finding food and shelter throughout this space.

Creating prairies where there was once none is a multi-year process that follows the following rhythm:

  1. In the first year, the native plants send roots down, establishing themselves underground. The plants that emerge above ground are temporary, typically annuals, and many are considered weeds. In this stage, the prairie doesn’t yet look or function as a prairie.

  2. The second year, the prairie plants start to grow up. Grasses and flowering plants will start to pop up and grow into the spaces the annuals once occupied. Birds and other animals start to inhabit the landscape. However, weed plants are persistent and will continue to occupy much of the landscape.

  3. In the third year, the annual weeds have mostly died out and the prairie plants have established themselves enough to outcompete newcomers. The prairie is now mostly intact and can be considered “self sustaining” at this point.

  4. The prairie will continue to evolve over time and increase in health as natural processes restore the soil and animals and plants work together in complex relationships to disrupt and establish proper ecosystem functions.

With an established prairie, very little maintenance is done from year to year. Typically, a managed prairie is mowed once annually, perhaps twice. Some prairie landscapes are also managed with “prescribed burns” once every four years or so. Otherwise, no further human inputs are required – no fertilizer, no trimming or pruning, no mulching, and no watering. These landscapes take care of themselves.

Permanent Grasses
Common Name Botanical Name
Little Bluestem Andropogon scoparius
Side Oats Grama Bouteloua curtipendula
June Grass Koelaria cristata
Prairie Dropseed Sporobolous heterolepis

Permanent Forbs
Common Name Botanical Name
Wild Columbine Aquilegia canadensis
Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa
Sky-blue Aster Aster azureus
Smooth Blue Aster Aster laevis
New England Aster Aster novae-angliae
Canadian Milk Vetch Astragalus canadensis
White Wild Indigo Baptisia leucantha
Sand Coreopsis Coreopsis lanceolata
Showy Tick Trefoil Desmodium canadense
Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea
Rattlesnake Master Eryngium yuccifolium
Purple Joe-Pye Weed Eupatorium purpureum
Downy Sunflower Helianthus mollis
False Sunflower Heliopsis helianthoides
Round-Headed Bush Clover Lespedeza capitata
Rough Blazing Star Liatris aspera
Prairie Blazing Star Liatris pycnostachya
Wild Lupine Lupinus perennis occidentalis
Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa
Foxglove Beard Tongue Penstemon digitalis
Hairy Beard Tongue Penstemon hirsutus
Purple Prairie Clover Petalostemum purpureum
Yellow Coneflower Ratibida pinnata
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta
Sweet Black Eyed Susan Rudbeckia subtomentosa
Brown-eyed Susan Rudbeckia triloba
Showy Goldenrod Solidago speciosa
Common Spiderwort Tradescantia ohiensis
Common Ironweed Vernonia fasciculata
Culver’s Root Veronicastrum virginicum

Temporary Grasses
Common Name Botanical Name
Seed Oats Avena sativa
Annual Rye Lolium multiflorum

Temporary Forbs
Common Name Botanical Name
Annual cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus
Blanket Flower Gaillardia pulchella
Corn Poppy Papaver rhoeas