The Missouri Prairie Foundation is dedicated to preserving prairies in Missouri. Our state’s prairies are on the eastern edge of the vast Great Plains of North America. Because they make some of the best land for row crops, temperate grasslands are one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet. Missouri is blessed with some stellar examples, partly because much of the land in the state is littered with rocks, making it unsuitable for cultivation.
Here, we’re attempting a controlled burn of MPF’s Coyne Prairie in Dade County, Missouri. As you can see, we got off to a good start. Unfortunately, it started to mist and then rain shortly after we started. Soon, the vegetation became too wet so that even a head fire couldn’t burn through. We saved the rest for another day.
We use prescribed fire at Pearl Creek Farm to manage both the forest and the reconstructed prairie. Here is an eerie photo of a controlled burn from last weekend that is burning itself out. It’s difficult to tell, but this photograph represents two lines of fire burning through dried oak leaves. The lines approached each other and burned themselves out when they met.
Fire returns nutrients to the soil, kills several non-native species, burns brush and other small woody plants back to ground level, keeping the forest clear, and tends to promote healthy growth in the spring. There is a body of historical and anecdotal evidence that suggests Native Americans burned both prairies and forest for various reasons during most of their 10,000+ year history in North America. We’re just restoring the tradition after a century hiatus.