Willa Cather Memorial Prairie

Saturday morning found us at the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie in south central Nebraska. I know this blog is usually about all things Kansas, but hey, we were near the border, and couldn’t resist taking a detour up into our neighbor state. We got there just before sunrise, and watched as it slowly peeked up over the horizon.

I looked to the west and watched as the sun’s rays touched the hills and lit the clouds.

When there was enough light, we started to walk the nature trails. The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie is 600+ acres of land that was native prairie until the early 1900s. Between then and just a few years ago, it was a used for grazing cattle. Over the years it was overgrazed, the land eroded, and non-native plants choked out the native grasses and flowers. Then the land was acquired by the Willa Cather Foundation, and about 4 years ago they began to restore the prairie to its pre-1900 state by removing thousands of invasive trees and non-native plants. Prescribed burns in the spring, and short term grazing in the summer are helping to maintain the prairie and encourage the growth of native grasses and wildflowers.

As we walked the trails, we saw many wildflowers, like the Flannel Mullein, (Native American Use: leaves inserted in shoes as insulation against the cold)

Flannel Mullein

Bull Thistle, (Native American Use: bristles used as the tail for blow darts)

Bull Thistle

Grooved Flax,

Grooved Flax

Black Sampson Echinacea, (Native American Use: treatment for sore throat, mumps, wounds, burns, and toothache)

Black Sampson Echinacea

Clasping Coneflower,

Clasping Coneflower

Catclaw Sensitive Briar, (leaflets sensitive to touch, and will fold up when disturbed)

Catclaw Sensitive Briar

Silktop Dalea, (Native American Use: treatment for diarrhea and colic)

Silktop Dalea

Butterfly Milkweed, (Native American Use: treatment for respiratory problems)

Butterfly Milkweed

Narrow Leaf Bluets,

Narrow Leaf Bluets

Purple Prairie Clover, (Native American Use: stems made into brooms and roots chewed for the sweet taste)

Purple Prairie Clover

and Serate Leaf Evening Primrose. (leaves fold in the mid-day sun to reduce water loss)

Serrate Leaf Evening Primrose

The prairie in the early morning light was a beautiful sight.

There were nicely mown trails to follow, and we thoroughly enjoyed walking up and down the hills as the sandpipers trilled overhead, the bees paid visits to the flowers, and we even saw a deer.

A precious resource set aside and protected for future generations, we highly recommend a visit.  Here is their website: http://www.willacather.org/cather-prairie It was well worth taking the detour out of Kansas to see it.

Afterwards, we drove a few miles to Red Cloud to visit Willa Cather’s childhood home, but that’s a post for tomorrow.

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