Sunday, August 19, 2012

Wet Meadows in a Drouth Year

As awareness grows on the impact of this summer's widespread drouth across the central US, it's interesting to look at the wet meadows in Ann Arbor's Buhr Park. Wet meadows, like many artificial "rain gardens," feature native plants that can thrive when occasionally inundated, and that grow and bloom even if they have "wet feet" for days or weeks at a time.

So how have they handled this year's drouth?

Exhibit A, in very sandy soil (upper basin on west side, almost behind the locker rooms, says "Drouth, what drouth?". It's growing bigger, to catch more sun.

Well, you say, cacti are a special case. So let's hear from someone else.

Exhibit B says,"I'm happy and healthy, thanks." This shrub (Ptelea trifoliata or wafer-ash)is also in that sandy upper basin. For plants that thrive on sand dunes, every year is a dry year.

Take a look for yourself. I think you'll agree that many, perhaps most of the plants are doing just fine, with no supplemental watering. A community of diverse species, well-established and appropriate to the site and soils, is remarkably resilient.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Native wildflowers in bloom - June 4, 2012

A quick visit to WM-III (the basin near the end of Essex Street, north of the ice rink) revealed several wildflowers blossoming: dwarf iris (a few late ones), beardstongue (Penestemon) a favorite with native bees, coreopsis, and yarrow If you stop by, take a look at the new paved sidewalk from the ice rink area.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Nighborhood Celebration and Prescribed Burn - Monday April 2

Looking for some outdoor fun for the whole family, right here in our hometown? You're invited to the annual spring Buhr Park Children's Wet Meadow Burn Monday, April 2nd. We had invited you to come seed collecting, but we find that there is very little seed to be collected. You are welcome to come early and help remove trash from the meadows and/or spread woodchips on a new site. Bring a wheelbarrow and shovel if you have them.

The main burn event will begin at about 4:00 with a brief introduction to the project and the role of burns. Trained experts from the City of Ann Arbor's Natural Area Program will then do a "prescribed burn" in one of the wet meadows. Other natural areas in the park may be burned earlier. (See below for further details.) One parent says, "It's quite a sight - my daughter has gone to prescribed burns from age 2 and loves them. I think it's quite safe for kids of any age if they're with a parent."

In a few weeks the meadows will be springing back to life, better than ever.

If the weather permits, consider bringing a picnic supper. Come and go when you like. The event is free and open to the public.

Buhr Park is in east Ann Arbor, at 2751 Packard (on the north side of the road) between Eisenhower and Platt. The original Children's Wet Meadow is just east of the parking lots, in the park behind Cobblestone Farm. The second, three-basin meadow, is on the west side, uphill from the play ground and behind the swimming pool, and the third is just north of the back parking lot. The swale garden along the east edge of the park will also be burned.

P.S. No, you don't have to have kids to have fun at the annual Children's Wet Meadow burn.

Prescribed burns background information: Although burning may seem destructive, fire actually serves to stimulate vigorous new growth of native plants, control the invasion of undesirable plants, warm the soil and release nutrients. Fire allows diverse, native plant and animal communities to thrive in natural areas.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wet Meadow Presentation at Wildflower Conference

Superswampers Sophia and Clare presented a workshop entitled: "Buhr Park Children's Wet Meadow: a child's perspective" at the annual Wildflower  Association of Michigan conference.

The highlight of the presentation was the fun and boring quiz. Workshop participants were asked to identify whether they thought kids would think it was fun or boring.