Meaningful species as we work

Quintessential biota

For the Society for Ecological Restoration’s 5th World Conference last year in Wisconsin, to help with conference wayfinding graphics, I chose a few representative and memorable species commonly associated with ecological restoration in Wisconsin – in prairies, wetlands, or woodlands – and wrote the following 15-20 word descriptions. It was fun to think of individual species that come to mind when thinking of restoration work here, and what they mean to us in our work.

Big bluestem or turkey-foot (Andropogon gerardii), the quintessential prairie grass touching the sky.  Perhaps six feet above ground and ten feet below.
Low sweet blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), very tasty to humans and black bears.  Facultative seral species in transition to forest.
Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), open-grown, wide-branching herald of the midwestern oak savanna.  Evolved with fire, remnant savannas are rare.
Broad-leaved arrowhead or duck-potato (Sagittaria latifolia), emergent aquatic in shallow wetlands, food for much wildlife.  Helpful in nutrient management.
Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), a spring nectar source for migrating hummingbirds.  Nodding flowers glow in late afternoon light.
Eastern gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor), arboreal; a flash of yellow on hind legs seen when jumping.  Conversational calls keep wetland restorationists company.
Gray-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), part of the notable “yellow” of young restored prairie.  Quick to establish, and fun and easy to harvest seed.
Wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), challenged by forest fragmentation we seek to repair.  Sings two notes at once, its call a memorable ethereal flute.

Nancy Aten