Toby's Prairie


Recent calculation of quality based on 2015 species data:

Toby's Prairie has a Floristic Quality Index = 60, which is a very high number. According to some experts, any FQI number over 50 represents an area of high conservatism.


This was the first prairie planted (year 1998). Its location is shown on the Management Map. At the time of planting, this field had been in the Conservation Reserve Program for ten years and was about to be renewed. By planting to prairie, we received some extra credits for the renewal.

This 3.5 acre field had been cropped for many years, but because of the topgraphy, plowing was suspended on the north and east edge of the field when tractors began to be used. After they were idle, both of these areas turned into prairie remnants. On the north side there was (and still is) a fine population of white wild indigo (Baptisia alba). On the east edge significant populations of round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata), showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), and flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata) were present. These served as seed sources for planting the new prairie and for other parts of the Conservancy.


Procedure for establishing the prairie. In the spring of 1998, the field to be planted was burned. After it greened up, the vegetation, almost all nonnative, was killed by two rounds of herbicide treatment. The first treatment, at the end of May, was a mixture of glyphosate and 2,4-D. At the end of September the field, heavy in weeds, was mowed and the cut matter removed from the field (to remove many weed seeds). In October the field was treated again, with glyphosphate alone. In early November, the field was burned, which removed some of the dry thatch. At the time of planting, there was little vegetation and much bare ground (see photo). (In retrospect, more glyphosate treatments should have been done before this field was planted.)

Planting was done by hand broadcasting by a group of 10 volunteers. Seeds of over 60 species of prairie grasses and forbs were planted, all hand-collected from other places on the Conservancy or from near-by locations. In addition to this general "seed mix", two areas of the field were marked as "forbs areas" and given extra amounts of the more showy species.

After planting, a tractor pulled a "Cultipack" unit across the field to rough up the soil and mix the seeds with the top layer of soil. (This procedure had been recommended but was probably not necessary. Since 2002 successful prairies have been planted without this procedure.)

As anticipated, in the summer of 1999 this planted field produced a fine crop of weeds! The weeds were mowed twice with a bush hog set to mow 6 inches high. At that height, the tiny prairie plants were spared, but the weeds were cut and prevented from flowering.

In April 2000 the field was burned and the field allowed to develop. By mid-summer 2000 (2nd growing season) there were still many weeds, but many prairie plants were also seen, including black-eyed susan, wild indigo, spiked lobelia, great blue lobelia, yellow coneflower, rosin weed, showy goldenrod, Kalm's brome, Indian grass, sky blue aster, evening primrose, New England aster, white vervain, blue vervain, gray goldenrod, and milk vetch. The field was mowed again in mid-August. Despite this mowing, some Indian grass went ahead and set seed. Ox-eye daisy, a nonnative weed, was a large problem on this field, and extensive hand weeding was done. Later in the season, hand weeding of Queen Anne's Lace was also done.

In 2001 (third growing season), the prairie (we no longer need to call it a "field") was developing very well. It was dubbed "Toby's Prairie" in honor of the then recently departed mascot of the Pleasant Valley Conservancy (see photo at top of this page). Because it had been mowed in late summer 2000, there was insufficient fuel for a controlled burn in 2001 but there was a lot of diversity. By September, the Indian grass had developed extremely well, and was used as a source of seed for collecting. Both ox-eye daisy and Queen Anne's Lace were still a problem and were weeded by hand. Because of the size of the field, this weeding took 4 people about 3 days. Some especially bad areas were mowed with a brush cutter. Despite weeding, there was a good stand of prairie grasses, especially Indian grass, and lots of forbs.

In early April 2002, a very successful burn of this prairie was done. Prairie plants did very well that summer (fourth growing season), and the weed problem was less. Only scattered hand weeding was done. The prairie now served as an excellent source of seeds for planting another large field (Valley Prairie). It was burned again in 2003 and in that year we collected over 50 pounds of Indian grass seed from this prairie. It was burned again in 2004 and again served as a major source of Indian grass seed. Except for one exception, this prairie continues to be burned annually, generally in the spring, although occasionally in the fall.




Toby's Prairie
Burning the N side of Toby's Prairie, April 2008. Because of the lush Indian grass, this prairie always burns well.

One year, as an experiment, only one side of Toby's Prairie was burned. The burned side grew much better than the undburned side. Research has shown that burns stimulate prairie growth primarily because the thick thatch from the previous year is eliminated, thus greatly increasing the light reaching the newly plants. At Toby's Prairie, the burned side was almost 2 weeks ahead of the unburned side, and seed set was much better.

The photo above shows Toby's Prairie in the winter after only the South side was burned. Note the striking difference in prairie between the two sides.


The species check list for Toby's Prairie is given in the table below. Photos of most of these species are given in the complete species check list,


Check list for 2004 for Toby's Prairie
Latin name
Common name
Achillea millefolium
Andropogon gerardii
Big bluestem
Anemone cylindrica
Antennaria neglecta
Field pussytoes
Antennaria plantaginifolia
Plantain-leaved pussytoes
Arnoglossum atriplicifolia
Pale Indian plantain
Asclepias syriaca
Common milkweed
Asclepias verticillata
Whorled milkweed
Aster laevis
Smooth blue aster
Aster lanceolatus
Panciled aster
Aster lateriflorus
Calico aster
Aster novae-angliae
New England aster
Aster oolentangiensis
Sky-blue aster
Aster pilosus
Hairy aster
Aster prenanthoides
Crooked aster
Aster puniceus
Swamp aster
Aster sagittifolius
Arrow-leaved aster
Baptisia lactea
White wild indigo
Bouteloua curtipendula
Side oats grama
Bromus kalmii
Prairie brome
Carya ovata
Shagbark hickory
Cirsium discolor
Pasture thistle
Coreopsis palmata
Prairie tickseed
Corylus americana
American hazelnut
Dalea candida
White prairie clover
Dalea purpureum
Purple prairie clover
Daucus carota
Queen Anne's lace
Desmodium canadense
Showy tick-trefoil
Desmodium illinoense
Illinois tick-trefoil
Echinacea pallida
Pale purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea
Broad-leaved purple coneflower
Elymus hystrix
Bottlebrush grass
Elymus riparius
Riverbank wild rye
Erigeron pulchellus
Robin's plantain
Erigeron strigosus
Daisy fleabane
Eryngium yuccifolium
Rattlesnake master
Eupatorium altissimum
Tall boneset
Eupatorium rugosum
White snakeroot
Euphorbia corollata
Flowering spurge
Euthamia graminifolia
Grass-leaved goldenrod
Fragaria virginiana
Wild strawberry
Gentiana andrewsii
Bottle gentian
Gentianella quinquefolia
Stiff gentian
Helianthus divaricatus
Woodland sunflower
Helianthus pauciflorus
Prairie sunflower
Heliopsis helianthoides
Ox-eye sunflower
Hieracium aurantiacum
Orange hawkweed
Hieracium kalmii
Canada hawkweed
Hypericum punctatum
Dotted St. John's wort
Krigia biflora
False dandelion (Cynthia)
Kuhnia eupatorioides
False boneset
Lactuca canadensis
Tall lettuce
Lespedeza capitata
Round-headed bush clover
Leucanthemum vulgare
Ox-eye daisy
Liatris aspera
Rough blazing star
Liatris cylindracea
Dwarf blazing star
Lobelia cardinalis
Cardinal flower
Lobelia siphilitica
Great blue lobelia
Lobelia spicata
Pale spiked lobelia
Lotus corniculata
Birdsfoot trefoil
Lupinus perennis
Wild lupine
Melilotus alba
White sweet clover
Monarda fistulosa
Wild bergamot
Oenothera biennis
Common evening-primrose
Pastinaca sativa
Wild parsnip
Penstemon grandiflorus
Large-flowered beard-tongue
Polygala sanguinea
Field milkwort
Potentilla arguta
Prairie cinquefoil
Potentilla simplex
Old-field cinquefoil
Prenanthes alba
Lion's foot
Prunella sp.
Pycnanthemum virginianum
Common mountain mint
Ratibida pinnata
Yellow coneflower
Rosa sp.
Rudbeckia hirta
Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia triloba
Brown-eyed Susan
Rumex crispus
Curly dock
Salix humilis
Prairie willow
Schizachyrium scoparium
Little bluestem
Scutellaria parvula
Small skullcap
Silphium integrifolium
Silphium laciniatum
Compass plant
Silphium perfoliatum
Cup plant
Silphium terebinthinaceum
Prairie dock
Sisyrinchium campestre
Blue-eyed grass
Solidago canadensis
Common goldenrod
Solidago juncea
Early goldenrod
Solidago missouriensis
Missouri goldenrod
Solidago nemoralis
Gray goldenrod
Solidago ptarmicoides
Stiff aster
Solidago rigida
Stiff goldenrod
Solidago speciosa
Showy goldenrod
Sonchus spp
Sow thistle
Sorghastrum nutans
Indian grass
Tradescantia ohiensis
Common spiderwort
Trifolium pratense
Red clover
Triosteum perfoliatum
Early horse gentian
Verbena stricta
Hoary vervain
Zizia aurea
Golden Alexanders