Posted by: Reena Ramos

  • 11/30/2016

ACRES takes responsibility for saving, restoring rare Warsaw prairie

*Update 3/7/19: This property is now named Eastlake. 

An extremely rare and ecologically significant remnant of native prairie struggling to survive amid Warsaw’s commercial and residential areas is part of ACRES Land Trust’s latest acquisition.

The 7-acre prairie found in the newly-acquired Wayne Township Property* along U.S. 30 may be the easternmost example of original Midwest prairie grassland, reports ACRES Land Trust. The member-based nonprofit recently purchased the property and 40 adjoining acres of wetland and swamp to preserve it, forever.

“This prairie is rare. It has a high conservation value because of the species that flourish here,” said Casey Jones, director of land management for ACRES, which is protecting more than 6,000 acres across northern Indiana and into Ohio and Michigan.

For years, area botanists and prairie conservationists have collected the seeds of the native tall prairie dock, goldenrod and bush clover on the property.

Native cottonwood trees rim the Wayne Township prairie. ACRES also found: rose pink (pictured, left), upland rose, grey-headed coneflower, bee balm, and pale-spiked lobelia. All native to Indiana.

“There are lots of different native grasses here,” said Jones. Particularly exciting is little blue stem.

Now, ACRES’ land management team has a “massive” job ahead, as they protect the treasured plants from several highly-invasive non-native species. Jones and land management specialist Evan Hill, will tackle these invasive species with the support of community volunteers.

Autumn olive and buckthorn stretch everywhere. “Everything woody in the prairie is a non-native invasive species that has been left to grow and spread undisturbed,” Jones said.  From the upland prairie, the property stretches down to swamp and marsh. “It’s kinda cool to see how one habitat meshes with the other,” says Jones. “When the invasives are gone, these native habitats will spread and flow more.”

Prairies are rare in Indiana, says Nate Simons, executive director of the Angola-based non-profit Blue Heron Ministries, a conservation and restoration organization. Years ago, he collected seed from the new ACRES prairie for a native seed nursery. “Now the genetics from that site are preserved and spread on prairie restoration sites throughout Indiana.”

Two years ago, Simons and Grace College students of Assistant Professor Nate Bosch collected seeds from a half-dozen native plant species from the site and scattered them for a small prairie restoration on campus.

“Maintaining what little remains as an example of what we once had in native landscapes and ecosystems is important for biological diversity,” he notes.

ACRES volunteers at a Eastlake trash cleanup

The Kosciusko County Community Foundation, Zimmer Biomet, and a discount from the previous owner have funded more than 60% of the cost of the Wayne Township Property.

ACRES needs $34,000 to complete the project.

ACRES protects and manages four preserves in Kosciusko County. While Wayne Township Property is closed during restoration and to prevent the invasive plants from spreading, ACRES holds workdays and unique members-only events like Plein Air Painting (pictured left). Additionally, three public nature preserves welcome hikers and nature lovers: Wildwood, Bock and Glennwood.

ACRES members protect 6,050 acres of significant natural area in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southern Michigan for future generations, forever. More than 70 miles of trails are open to the public dawn to dusk to explore prairies, woodlands, streams, waterfalls and other natural areas. Connect with ACRES Land Trust at acreslandtrust.org, 260-637-2273 or www.facebook.com/ACRES.LT.