Increasing Plant Species Diversity at Pleasant Valley Conservancy

 

When restoration work was begun at Pleasant Valley Conservancy there were a few fine prairie remnants as well as some degraded savannas, woodlands, and wetlands. However, grazing and other agricultural activities had caused a marked loss in plant species.

In addition to removing a large number of invasive plants, we worked hard to increase the diversity of native plant species. This work has been quite successful. From an early estimate of about 250 native plant species, our list has grown to over 400 species.

The number 250 is derived from a merger of plant checklists made by botanists who visited Pleasant Valley Conservancy before any restoration work had been carried out. These lists, presented below, were edited to remove any duplicates. The total list, which includes some weeds and other invasive species, has 270 species. It is estimated that about 250 of these species are plants native to prairies, savannas, woodlands, and wetlands.

The early plant species check lists given below were done by different people at different times, and some of the Latin names used, even for the same species, may be different. Plant nomenclature is a complicated field, and different authorities use different names. Continuing research in plant taxonomy leads to altered nomenclatlures. Therefore, some of the names used in these check lists may no longer be valid.

Early Species List by Brian Pruka

The first detailed plant check list for the land that was to become Pleasant Valley Conservancy was carried out by plant ecologist Brian Pruka in 1995. Pruka had just finished his Master's thesis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison working on a nearby oak savanna, and was familiar with the area. His list was prepared for us as part of the early management plan that Pruka prepared for the property. Pruka's list contains 170 species,which included prairie, savanna, woodland, and wetland species.

Even considering the nomenclature problems mentioned above, and the fact that surveys were made only in the summer, there are some noteworthy species on the Pruka list, including a number with relatively high Coefficients of Conservatism.

Species List by Paul West

In 1997, we hired plant ecologist Paul West, then working only part-time at the Nature Conservancy, to further develop management objectives for the property. As part of this work, West prepared another plant check list. Although there was some overlap with Pruka's list, West's list, with 136 species, added some additional species.

Kathie Brock's Species List for goat prairie (Unit 1)

Our best prairie remnant, Unit 1, was probably never grazed. In 2002 Kathie Brock prepared a species list for this prairie. At that time, this unit had been burned six times. Noteworthy prairie species on Kathie's list of 37 species include sky-blue aster, side oats grama, purple prairie clover, showy and Illinois tick-trefoil, tall boneset, flowering spurge, false boneset, small yellow flax, fringed puccoon, violet wood sorrel, little bluestem, small skullcap, blue-eyed grass, gray goldenrod, Indian grass, prairie dropseed, spiderwort, and bird's foot violet.

Unintroduced Species Missing From the Above Lists

There are a number of species that were originally present at Pleasant Valley Conservancy that are not given in any of these early lists. We know these species were present because they are present now and we did not introduce them. Of these, the most interesting are: White wild indigo, glade mallow, Canada anemone, wood anemone, poke milkweed, silky aster, white wild indigo, Bromus kalmii, large yellow lady-slipper orchid, shooting star, wood betony, bottlebrush grass, silky rye, Virginia wild rye, upland boneset, sweet Indian plantain, prairie alum-root, great St. John's wort, yellow star grass, seneca snakeroot, lion's foot, rosinweed, cup plant, showy goldenrod, elm-leafed goldenrod, yellow pimpernel, Culver's root, purple meadow-rue, angelica, spiderwort, bellwort, prairie violet, golden Alexanders, and purple milkweed. Several of these species are endangered, threatened, or of special concern.

The presence of purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens), a State endangered species, is noteworthy. This beautful savanna species was first found flowering in Unit 12B after it had been cleared and burned. With further clearing and burning, additional sites developed. Seeds of this species were never brought in from elsewhere, although efforts have been made (partly successfully) to get it established in new sites on the Conservancy.

It turned out that a significant number of native species were present on our property along County Highway F. This north-facing slope had been periodically mowed by county highway crews, but this mowing had been infrequent enough that some important species were not eradicated. Species that were present in relatively large amounts included New Jersey tea, golden Alexanders, arrow-leafed aster, great St. John's wort, great blue lobelia, fringed loosestrife, and Culver's root.

Increasing Species Diversity

Originally, our goal was to collect seed from the remnants and transfer it to other sites on the property. This work went in tandem with removal of invasive shrubs and trees. The focus initially was on the south-facing slope where large amounts of red cedar, planted red pines, elms, buckthorn, honeysuckle, and other woody plants were removed. Removal of these trees opened up "holes", into which seeds collected elsewhere on the property were planted. This sort of activity is on-going throughout the Conservancy.

As much as possible, we have used seed that had been collected on our property. If no useful source was found there, we collected seeds from nearby town roads, or from other sites nearby. In only a few cases were seeds obtained from more distant sites, although always from southern Wisconsin sources.

In 1998, our first year of planting, we planted 20 species on the south slope that had been collected elsewhere on the property. Only the lower part of the slope, which lacked any significant savanna oaks, had been cleared. It was burned in early April and planted a few days later, with seeds that had been stored in the barn all winter. We had only limited amounts of grass species, so this seeding was primarily of forbs. As it turned out, burning had stimulated the growth of pre-existing grasses, and little bluestem and Indian grass flourished without planting.

Controlled burns played a major role in increasing diversity, and the south slope has been burned almost every year since restoration began. The photo here is from a burn in March 2003.

 

First Planted Prairie At the same time, we were planting completely new prairies on the various small agricultural fields present at the site. These small fields, amounting to a total of less than 15 acres, had been entered into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in 1987. When our 10-year contract came up for renewal in 1997, we opted to plant prairie on two of these fields, which gave us extra points in the evaluation of our CRP project. Instead of purchasing seeds, we decided, as much as possible, to collect our own seeds. Because our supply of seeds was limited, the first year we planted only a single field to prairie (Toby's Prairie). Although almost all the species planted came from elsewhere on the property, a few species that "should" have been in a tall grass prairie were completely missing. These were obtained by trade from the Madison Audubon Society prairie restorations at Goose Pond. What we traded was volunteer work for seeds. Species that we obtained from this source were: wild onion, Canada milk vetch, white prairie clover, pale purple coneflower, ox-eye sunflower, compass plant, and stiff goldenrod. All the rest of the 70 species planted came from our own sources.

Indian grass, Sorghastrum nutans, is an important species in a tallgrass prairie. It produces a good prairie sod, and it provides great fuel for a prairie burn. All of our Indian grass has come from our own property. Initially, it was present in signficant amounts only on a small prairie remnant high on the south slope (Unit 4), surrounded by cedars and buckthorn, This tiny prairie of less than 1/2 acre was first burned in April 1998 and as a result the Indian grass flourished. Seed was collected in the fall of 1998 and used as part of the prairie seed mix for Toby's Prairie, planted in November 1998. It has done exceedling well there and has been the source of Indian grass seed for all of our subsequent planted prairies, as well as for the open savanna areas.

 

2007: What Eleven Years Have Wrought

Restoration work at Pleasant Valley Conservancy has proceeded at a steady pace. As degraded savannas have been cleared, they have been planted with seeds collected elsewhere on the site. The planted prairies have turned out to be excellent seed sources because of the large acreages of relatively level land where collecting is easy.

Only minimal work has been done in the wetlands, which were initially in fairly good shape. Minimal work has also been done on the north-facing oak woods, which have plentiful spring ephemerals and, except for a few areas, only small amounts of invasive shrubs.

As of the end of the 2007 season, over 400 native species are present at Pleasant Valley Conservancy. Even more significant, the floristic quality index (FQI) has a value of 91.3, which is an impressively high number.

Most of the species used for the FQI calculation were not introduced but were already here, although perhaps present in small numbers. The most important work that we have done is to remove the invasives, both woody and herbaceous, thus providing habitat for pre-existing species to spread. Controlled burns also have played a major role.

We have increased diversity in another way, by learning to identify the plants and by exploring the Conservancy in great detail. Often a rare species will be present in only one or a few sites, and will be missed in any casual walk-through. Further, restoration of an area will almost immediately result in the appearance of species that have not been seen in that site before. They might well have been present, but were suppressed by the great weight of invasives.

As an example, shooting star, a very desirable prairie and savanna plant, is able to survive under the shade of exotic bush honeysuckle, but is not readily visible. Removal of the honeysuckles leads almost immediately, usually in the first subsequent growing season, to a great increase in the growth of shooting star, many of which will flower (see photo below). These were not planted, but burst in view after their habitat was restored.

 

 

 

 


 

Brian Pruka's Check List from 1995

Latin Common
Acer negundo Box elder
Acer saccharum Sugar maple
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Actaea alba White baneberry
Actaea rubra Red baneberry
Adiantum pedatum Northern maidenhair fern
Agalinis gattingeri Round-stemed false foxglove
Agalinis purpurea v. parviflora Smooth false foxglove
Agrimonia gryposepala Tall agrimony
Ambrosia trifida Giant ragweed
Amorpha canescens Lead-plant
Amphicarpaea bracteata Hog peanut
Andropogon gerardii Big bluestem
Anemone canadensis Meadow anemone
Anemone cylindrica Thimbleweed
Anemone quinquefolia Wood anemone
Anemone virginiana Tall anemone
Antennaria plantaginifolia Plantain-leaved pussytoes
Apocynum sibiricum Clasping dogbane
Aquilegia canadensis Wild columbine
Arabis lyrata Sand cress
Aralia nudicaulis Wild sarsaparilla
Aralia racemosa Spikenard
Aristida tuberculosa Dune three-awn grass
Armoracia lacustris Lake cress
Artemisia campestris caudata Beach wormwood
Artemisia frigida Prairie sagewort
Asclepias hirtella Tall green milkweed
Asclepias viridiflora Short green milkweed
Asparagus officinalis Asparagus
Asplenium trichomanes Maidenhair spleenwort
Aster sagittifolius Arrow-leaved aster
Bidens frondosa Common beggar's-tick
Botrychium dissectum obliquum Oblique grape fern
Botrychium minganense Mingan moonwort
Botrychium multifidum Leather-leaved grape fern
Brassica sp Mustard
Cacalia plantaginea Prairie Indian plantain
Calamagrostis stricta Bog reed-grass
Calamovilfa longifolia longifolia Sand-reed
Carex spp Sedge
Carex torreyi Torrey sedge
Carex trisperma  
Celtis occidentalis Hackberry
Conium maculatum Poison hemlock
Coptis trifolia groenlandica Goldthread
Corydalis spp Corydalis
Crataegus chrysocarpa Fireberry hawthorn
Cynosurus cristatus Dogtail
Cyperus odoratus Fragrant cyperus
Cyperus squarrosus Awned cyperus
Cystopteris fragilis Northern fragile fern
Cystopteris protrusa Creeping fragile fern
Dasistoma macrophylla Mullein foxglove
Desmodium paniculatum Panicled tick-trefoil
Eleocharis ovata Blunt spike-rush
Eleocharis tenuis borealis Neat spike-rush
Equisetum palustre Marsh horsetail
Equisetum variegatum jesupi E. X TRACHYODON
Equisetum x litorale E. ARVENSE X FLUVIATILE
Erigeron philadelphicus Marsh fleabane
Erigeron pulchellus Robin's plantain
Erigeron sp Fleabane
Erigeron spp Fleabane
Erigeron strigosus Daisy fleabane
Eriophorum sp Cotton-grass
Euthamia graminifolia Grass-leaved goldenrod
Euthamia gymnospermoides Western flat-top goldenrod
Festuca brachyphylla Short-leaf fescue
Festuca sp Fescue grass
Festuca spp Fescue grass
Fraxinus americana White ash
Fraxinus nigra Black ash
Fumaria officinalis Fumitory
Galium lanceolatum Lance-leaved wild licorice
Gentiana sp Gentian
Goodyera pubescens Rattlesnake plantain
Gymnocladus dioica Kentucky coffee tree
Hedeoma hispida Rough pennyroyal
Helianthus divaricatus Woodland sunflower
Helianthus spp Sunflower
Helianthus tuberosus Jerusalem artichoke
Hordeum sp  
Hudsonia tomentosa False heather
Hypochaeris radicata Spotted cat's ear
Juncus alpinoarticulatus Richardson's rush
Juncus gerardi Black grass
Koeleria macrantha June grass
Lechea pulchella Pinweed
Lepidium perfoliatum Clasping cress
Liatris x gladewitzii HYBRID BLAZING STAR
Linum medium texanum Small yellow flax
Linum rigidum Stiff yellow flax
Lithospermum sp Pucoon
Lycopodium inundatum Bog clubmoss
Menispermum canadense Moonseed
Mentha aquatica crispa Curled mint
Microseris cuspidata Prairie dandelion
Myosotis scorpioides Common forget-me-not
Myriophyllum sp Water milfoil
Myriophyllum tenellum Dwarf milfoil
Neslia paniculata Ball mustard
Oenothera perennis Small sundrops
Oenothera pilosella Prairie sundrops
Orchis spectabilis Showy orchis
Panax trifolium Dwarf ginseng
Panicum latifolium Broad-leaved panic-grass
Panicum miliaceum Broom-corn millet
Panicum oligosanthes Few-flowered panic-grass
Panicum oligosanthes scribnerianum Scribner's panic-grass
Penstemon grandiflorus Large-flowered beard-tongue
Penstemon spp Beard-tongue
Platanthera lacera Ragged fringed orchid
Polygonum hydropiperoides Mild water
Potamogeton oakesianus Oakes' pondweed
Potentilla arguta Prairie cinquefoil
Potentilla norvegica Rough cinquefoil
Prenanthes sp White lettuce
Ptelea trifoliata Hop-tree
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium Slender mountain mint
Pyrola chlorantha Green shinleaf
Pyrola elliptica Large-leaved shinleaf
Pyrola sp Shinleaf
Quercus bicolor Swamp white oak
Quercus sp Oak
Ranunculus abortivus Small-flowered buttercup
Ranunculus gmelinii Small yellow water-crowfoot
Ranunculus hispidus Rough buttercup
Ranunculus sp Buttercup
Ribes hudsonianum Canadian black currant
Ribes uva-crispi Garden gooseberry
Rorippa sinuata Spreading yellow-cress
Rosa blanda Early wild rose
Rubus flagellaris Common dewberry
Rubus setosus Bristly blackberry
Rumex acetosella Field sorrel
Salix cordata Dune willow
Salix lucida Shining willow
Salix myricoides Blue-leaved willow
Scirpus cyperinus Woolgrass
Scirpus validus Great bulrush
Silene cserei Glaucous campion
Silene dichotoma Forked catchfly
Silene latifolia White campion
Silene vulgaris Bladder campion
Sisymbrium officinale Hedge-mustard
Sisyrinchium spp Blue-eyed grass
Smilax herbacea herbacea Carrion flower
Solanum carolinense Horse nettle
Sonchus arvensis Perennial sow thistle
Sparganium fluctuans Floating-leaved bur-reed
Stellaria borealis Northern starwort
Stellaria spp Starwort
Streptopus roseus longipes Twisted stalk
Symphoricarpos sp Snowberry
Talinum rugospermum Fame flower
Thelypteris phegopteris Narrow beach-fern
Triadenum virginicum Marsh St. John's wort
Trientalis borealis Starflower
Trifolium campestre Low hop-clover
Trifolium repens White clover
Utricularia geminiscapa Twin-stemmed bladderwort
Utricularia sp Bladderwort
Verbena simplex Narrow-leaved vervain
Verbena sp Vervain
Vernonia fasciculata Common ironweed
Vincetoxicum nigrum Black swallow-wort
Viola conspersa Dog violet
Viola spp Violet
Vitis spp Wild grape

 

Paul West's Check List From 1997-98

Latin name Common name
Acer rubrum Red maple
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Actaea rubra Red baneberry
Adiantum pedatum Northern maidenhair fern
Agalinis asper Rough false foxglove
Agastache sp Giant hyssop
Ambrosia artemisiifolia Common ragweed
Amorpha canescens Lead-plant
Amphicarpaea bracteata Hog peanut
Andropogon gerardii Big bluestem
Anemone cylindrica Thimbleweed
Anemone quinquefolia Wood anemone
Anemone virginiana Tall anemone
Antennaria neglecta Field pussytoes
Antennaria plantaginifolia Plantain-leaved pussytoes
Apocynum androsaemifolium Spreading dogbane
Aquilegia canadensis Wild columbine
Aralia nudicaulis Wild sarsaparilla
Aralia racemosa Spikenard
Aristida tuberculosa Dune three-awn grass
Artemisia biennis Biennial wormwood
Asclepias ovalifolia Oval milkweed
Asclepias sp Milkweed
Asclepias syriaca Common milkweed
Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly weed
Asclepias viridiflora Short green milkweed
Asplenium sp Spleenwort
Asplenium trichomanes Maidenhair spleenwort
Aureolaria grandiflora Yellow false foxglove
Bidens discoidea Swamp beggar's-tick
Bidens frondosa Common beggar's-tick
Botrychium dissectum obliquum Oblique grape fern
Calamovilfa longifolia longifolia Sand-reed
Calylophus serrulatus Toothed evening-primrose
Cardamine sp Cress
Carex albolutescens  
Carex leptalea  
Carex meadii Mead's sedge
Carex pauciflora  
Carex rostrata  
Carex spp Sedge
Carex torreyi Torrey sedge
Carya ovata Shagbark hickory
Celtis occidentalis Hackberry
Chenopodium gigantospermum Maple-leaved goosefoot
Coptis trifolia groenlandica Goldthread
Corydalis spp Corydalis
Cymbalaria muralis Kenilworth ivy
Cyperus lupulinus Sand cyperus
Cyperus odoratus Fragrant cyperus
Cyperus squarrosus Awned cyperus
Cystopteris fragilis mackayi Mackay's frafile fern
Cystopteris protrusa Creeping fragile fern
Dasistoma macrophylla Mullein foxglove
Desmodium paniculatum Panicled tick-trefoil
Eleocharis flavescens olivacea Tufted spike-rush
Equisetum palustre Marsh horsetail
Equisetum variegatum nelsonii E. X NELSONII
Eriophorum sp Cotton-grass
Euphorbia marginata Snow-on-the-mountain
Euthamia gymnospermoides Western flat-top goldenrod
Fagopyrum esculentum Buckwheat
Festuca pratensis Meadow fescue
Filipendula rubra Queen-of-the-prairie
Fraxinus nigra Black ash
Fumaria officinalis Fumitory
Galium lanceolatum Lance-leaved wild licorice
Galium tinctorium Stiff bedstraw
Gentiana spp Gentian
Goodyera repens ophioides Creeping rattlesnake plantain
Halenia deflexa Spurred gentian
Hedeoma hispida Rough pennyroyal
Helianthus divaricatus Woodland sunflower
Helianthus mollis Downy sunflower
Hieracium sp Hawkweed
Hieracium spp Hawkweed
Hypochaeris radicata Spotted cat's ear
Isopyrum biternatum False rue anemone
Juncus gerardi Black grass
Juncus squarrosus  
Lespedeza virginica Slender bush clover
Liatris x gladewitzii HYBRID BLAZING STAR
Linum rigidum Stiff yellow flax
Lithospermum latifolium American gromwell
Lycopodium inundatum Bog clubmoss
Malaxis monophyllos White adder's mouth
Menispermum canadense Moonseed
Myosotis scorpioides Common forget-me-not
Orchis rotundifolia Small round-leafed orchis
Orchis spectabilis Showy orchis
Oryzopsis racemosa Black-seeded ricegrass
Oxalis acetosella Northern wood-sorrel
Panicum latifolium Broad-leaved panic-grass
Penstemon grandiflorus Large-flowered beard-tongue
Pinus banksiana Jack pine
Platanthera blephariglottis White fringed orchid
Platanthera lacera Ragged fringed orchid
Poa nemoralis  
Polygonella articulata Jointweed
Polygonum erectum Erect knotweed
Potamogeton oakesianus Oakes' pondweed
Potentilla arguta Prairie cinquefoil
Potentilla norvegica Rough cinquefoil
Potentilla spp Cinquefoil
Ptelea trifoliata Hop-tree
Puccinellia distans Alkali grass
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium Slender mountain mint
Pyrus malus Apple
Ranunculus abortivus Small-flowered buttercup
Ranunculus gmelinii Small yellow water-crowfoot
Rheum rhabarbicum Rhubarb
Rumex obtusifolius Bitter dock
Sagittaria sp Arrowhead
Salix cordata Dune willow
Salix lucida Shining willow
Scirpus supinus hallii Sharp-scale bulrush
Senna hebecarpa Wild senna
Silene vulgaris Bladder campion
Silene vulgaris Bladder campion
Sisymbrium officinale Hedge-mustard
Sisyrinchium fuscatum Blue-eyed grass
Solanum carolinense Horse nettle
Stellaria spp Starwort
Streptopus roseus longipes Twisted stalk
Talinum rugospermum Fame flower
Triadenum virginicum Marsh St. John's wort
Trientalis borealis Starflower
Trifolium repens White clover
Triosteum perfoliatum Early horse gentian
Utricularia sp Bladderwort
Verbena simplex Narrow-leaved vervain
Vernonia fasciculata Common ironweed
Vicia americana American vetch
Vincetoxicum nigrum Black swallow-wort
Viola spp Violet
Vitis spp Wild grape

 


 

Kathie Brock's 2002 Prairie List

Latin name Common name
Amorpha canescens Lead-plant
Andropogon gerardii Big bluestem
Anemone cylindrica Thimbleweed
Antennaria neglecta Field pussytoes
Aquilegia canadensis Wild columbine
Asclepias verticillata Whorled milkweed
Aster oolentangiensis Sky-blue aster
Bouteloua curtipendula Side oats grama
Campanula rotundifolia Harebell
Dalea purpureum Purple prairie clover
Desmodium canadense Showy tick-trefoil
Desmodium illinoense Illinois tick-trefoil
Erigeron pulchellus Robin's plantain
Erigeron strigosus Daisy fleabane
Eupatorium altissimum Tall (Upland) boneset
Euphorbia corollata Flowering spurge
Geranium maculatum Wild geranium
Kuhnia eupatorioides False boneset
Linum medium texanum Small yellow flax
Lithospermum incisum Fringed puccoon
Monarda fistulosa Wild bergamot
Oxalis acetosella Northern wood-sorrel
Oxalis violacea Violet wood-sorrel
Panicum latifolium Broad-leaved panic-grass
Panicum sp. Small-seed panic grass
Ratibida pinnata Yellow coneflower
Rudbeckia hirta Black-eyed Susan
Schizachyrium scoparium Little bluestem
Scutellaria leonardi Small skullcap
Sisyrinchium spp Blue-eyed grass
Solidago canadensis Common goldenrod
Solidago nemoralis Old-field goldenrod (grey; dyer)
Sorghastrum nutans Indian grass
Sporobolus heterolepis Prairie dropseed
Tradescantia ohiensis Common spiderwort
Verbena stricta Hoary vervain
Viola pedata Bird's foot violet

 

 

Detailed picture of the oak savanna diversity at Pleasant Valley Conservancy

A summary of the species found in the various savanna units is given in a PDF that can be downloaded. The species in this file are sorted by C value (Coefficient of Conservatism), which puts the most interesting species on top.

Oak savanna diversity PDF