Photos: Wildflowers of Prairie Park’s remnant prairie before the herbicide spray

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Many community members were devastated to learn last week that the remnant prairie behind Prairie Park Nature Center had been sprayed with herbicide, killing millions of wildflowers.

We asked readers to please send us their photos of the prairie, particularly the spring wildflowers, so the community can recall their beauty if the flowers don’t come back.

City of Lawrence Parks and Recreation officials at first said the herbicide spray was “part of the parks’ ongoing management plan to control noxious and other undesirable broadleaf weeds and woody plants,” but Parks and Rec director Derek Rogers on Tuesday said the spray was a departmental error, “and we will conduct a thorough review of what happened.”

Rogers has said the city plans to “work with local suppliers of native plant seeds to reestablish and replenish the prairie plant species that may have been impacted” by the spray. But Courtney Masterson, ecologist and executive director of Native Lands Restoration Collaborative, said many of the plants in this prairie, which is thousands of years old, are so rare that they cannot be purchased.

At a healing gathering slated for Monday, there will be a short ceremony led by Haskell Indian Nations University professor Dan Wildcat, including Steve Cadue, Kickapoo Elder and past tribal chair; Ron Brave, traditional Lakota singer; Masterson; Ken Lassman, ecological writer and and curator of the Kaw Valley Almanac; Rev. Shelley Page, Unitarian Universalist minister; and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, poet.

Read more about the event at this link.

Jacob Penner wrote to us on Monday, “I moved to East Lawrence this past fall and have fallen in love with watching the seasons progress at that prairie. I’ve been out this morning to see the damage for myself and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

Reb Bryant, a doctoral candidate with KU’s Bever/Shultz Lab, snapped photos of some wildflowers on April 26 — the day before the herbicide spray.

“Though I work in prairies, this was my first time seeing this remnant,” they wrote. “I was blown away by all the rare species I saw there, and this news was absolutely devastating.”

Amelia Hoedl submitted these photos, signed “Love one very disappointed Prairie Park resident.”

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Emily Hanks and Hudler, an 8-year-old Brittany Spaniel, have enjoyed the wildflowers.

Patricia Wittry sent photos of the wildflowers taken April 19 and April 25, including a couple with friend Rowdy.

Patricia Wittry Rowdy sits at the remnant prairie on April 25, 2023.
Patricia Wittry

An ant is visible on a flower in this April 25 photo. Masterson said ants help some prairie flower seeds germinate.

Another Lawrence Times reader sent a few photos of spring wildflowers, plus several photos taken in August.

Masterson said the herbicide would kill the plants that have aboveground growth — those that came into direct contact with the spray. That includes the spring blooming flowers.

“Most of the broadleaf species have aboveground growth now but not all,” Masterson said last week. “A small subset of prairie plants will not have emerged, or will have just started to poke up above the soil an inch or two. Those species will represent our later summer and fall blooming species, for the most part. I hope those species will persist on site, providing resources for wildlife later in the year.”

Our reader sent these photos from later in the summer 2021.

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Related posts:

Ken Lassman: My interview with the prairie (Column)

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”It has been just more than one year since the old growth prairie that grows next to the Prairie Park Nature Center was sprayed … I decided: why not go to the source and interview the prairie itself?” Ken Lassman writes in this anthropomorphic column.


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