A list of the species in our research plot is available.


Source: Denise Wagner
Whorled rosinweed (Silphium trifoliatum) is one of over twenty species germinated from seeds gathered in local prairie remnants.



Restoring a native grassland will give visitors a view into the past.


Source: Denise Wagner
Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum muticum)


Source: Joel McNeal
Bromegrass (Bromus kalmii) photographed in a natural prairie remnant in central Pennsylvania


Source: Joel McNeal
Side-oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) photographed in a natural prairie remnant in central Pennsylvania

Source: Denise Wagner
Eupatorium altissimum



Source: Denise Wagner
Penstemon digitalis

A "Prairie" in Central Pennsylvania?

In 1775, the traveling Reverend Philip V. Fithian wrote in his diary, "In the valley there are large open plains, cleared either by Indians or accidental fire. Hundreds of acres are covered with fine grass and a great variety of flowers." He was referring to a prairie in nearby Penns Valley, called the "Great Plains."

Experimental Prairie Patch

In 2001, Daniel Laughlin, an Arboretum graduate assistant in ecology, collected seeds from a small remnant of that earlier prairie in Penns Valley, and from several other small prairie communities scattered throughout central Pennsylvania. His article explains how he became intrigued by the possibility of recreating the earlier prairies and how he proceeded to choose an appropriate site for his study in the Arboretum.

Source: Denise Wagner
Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) blooms in the prairie plot created as a graduate research project.

When writing about his research project, Mr. Laughlin noted that recreating a prairie patch will be a historical, cultural, and ecological reminder of a time when natural processes created a mosaic of habitats throughout central Appalachia. After European settlement, these habitats were dramatically and permanently changed.

In fact, to the best of our knowledge, this planting represents the first-ever effort toward limestone prairie restoration in our part of the state.

Several Native Prairie Species Thriving After Two Years

In July 2003 many of the twenty-three species planted in 2001 were not only surviving but thriving, blooming, and towering above the pasture grass that surrounds the plot. This is significant from a conservation perspective because two of these plants have "threatened" status in Pennsylvania.

Source: Denise Wagner

As research continues, common forms of pasture grass like the one pictured above will be replaced near the prairie patch with Bromus kalmii and side-oats grama, grasses typical of dry, shallow, limestone prairies. (See photos in side bar.)

Among the twenty-three species of prairie plants in the plot, a relatively large number surviving today are side-oats grama, the dominant grass in limestone prairies (pictured on the left).

The prairie patch (shown from a distance in the photo below) is a long way from being a recreated prairie in the Arboretum, but the results of this small trial are certainly encouraging.

Many of the photographs featured on this page were taken by Denise Wagner, one of the Arboretum's volunteers, on July 25, 2003, to help document the status of the prairie patch. Two pictures are being used with permission from Joel McNeal, a graduate student in biology at Penn State, to illustrate the grasses that typically grow in small prairie remnants in central Pennsylvania.

Source: Denise Wagner
The yellow flowers of whorled rosinweed made it easy for visitors to spot the prairie patch in the pasture during late July 2003.


The watercolor renderings below were created by the architectural firm of Sasaki Associates, Inc., to illustrate how Arboretum visitors might experience walking through a recreated savannah or prairie.

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