Action = Results

Monarch Larvae

Monarch Larvae

It is quite exciting to see invested efforts produce results.  Pop Up Prairie's first public reference garden in Mc Donald park has been a serious bloomer all year long and we are very happy to now see Monarch Butterfly larvae happily munching away on the Butterfly Weeds in the installation.  It is a perfect example of the supporting role native plants play in our ecosystem.  

You may also notice an orange and black bug hiding out in the picture above.  That is an adult Milkweed Bug and, as the name suggests, is uniquely designed to take advantage of the Milkweed family.  It has a long proboscis that can pierce the milkweed pods and feed on the tasty innards.  Like the Monarch, they also derive a toxic compound from the sap that keeps predators from dining on them.

A few native plants and a little effort can have a real positive effective on the local bio-diversity right outside your door or around the corner at the park.  Take action and enjoy the rewards. 

Urban Habitat Refragmentation

It is well documented that wildlife habitat at the landscape level has been diminishing at an alarming rate within the last 200 years due to land conversion. The high-quality habitat that remains in our natural areas is highly fragmented, meaning it’s physically separated by barriers such as infrastructure, residential and commercial development, or row crop agriculture. Fragmentation is detrimental because it results in restricted gene flow, bottlenecked wildlife corridors, and the pressure placed on small habitat blocks by wildlife is unsustainable. To make matters worse, natural areas are already stressed by changing climate and invasion of non-native plants like bush honeysuckle. That’s where Pop Up Prairie and you come in, we believe the urban management of our natural resources is the key to the resilience of natural areas. You see, many people believe that the natural world is safely being conserved by the government, non-governmental agencies, and private landowners in rural areas. It is, but the management of natural areas is expensive and energy intensive and gains are often spoiled by budgetary constraints and a combination of factors discussed above. The long-term health of our natural areas is dependent on a shift in the traditional natural resource management paradigm that it can only be done at large scale and by professionals. Urban, residential landowners must become active resource managers. Relative to the landscape level, managing a 50 square feet pollinator garden in your back yard is low cost and time efficient because maintenance is minimal and thwarting exotic invasion is easy with garden style “weeding”. Pop Up Prairie’s mission is to create a robust urban habitat network, referred to as urban habitat refragmentation. Re-fragmentation? The city of St. Louis is situated on what was once “virgin” habitat. The “virgin” resource was carved up by development and fragmented over time until no quality habitat was left save for a few parks. We want to see a pollinator garden in every back yard, the high quality habitat that is fragmented merely by a fence-line and not miles of asphalt and corn. We want to export native seed (instead of non-native seed from traditional landscaping projects) via birds and other dispersal mechanisms like water to replenish exhausted seed banks in the natural areas. We want to build up healthy and thriving local populations of pollinators that must move on and find new territories. Above all, we want to increase bio-diversity and make sure the next generation has a chance to build on your collective successes at urban habitat refragmentation. If you’re feeling the buzz, get out there and join the effort. It’s easy, and Pop Up Prairie can advise you.

Urban Habitat Refragmentation: Break up the contiguous wasteland of monoculture lawn and alien landscaping with beneficial native habitat.

#habrefrag #fragyourhab

Don't Fear The Bees

I dig chatting with people when I'm out maintaining a project.  The responses are overwhelmingly positive.  In fact, only one person was negative when I was using my backpack sprayer.  "You are destroying the environment!" as they drove by.  No chemicals, just water, I promise.  The one concern I hear most though centers around bees, specifically the pointy part.  Bees do not want to hurt you.  Here are a few facts to set your mind at ease.

  • Native bees, like the Bumblebee, are solitary.  Because they don't have a hive to protect they have no interest in you at all.  And only the females have stingers anyway.  Some species of bees don't have any stingers at all.
  • People that have had negative experiences often have mistaken wasps or yellowjackets for bees.  The pesky yellow and black guys buzzing your picnic interested in your food are the wasps and yellowjackets.  Bees want pollen and nectar so unless you are eating flowers you shouldn't have a problem with bees.
  • While bees are soaking up sunshine and nectar they are extremely docile and just want to be left alone to find the next flower.
  • Bees have a one track mind - flowers.  If you are wearing a floral print and/or wearing a floral perfume then they may come check you out.  If you swat them they might sting.  

Bees aren't out to get you.  If you leave them alone they will happily leave you alone.

[EcoMythsVideo].(Oct 28, 2012).The Bee Chronicles 1: There's a Bee in My Bonnet.[Video File].Retrieved from

Earth Day 2016

On Earth day we are hearing a lot about problems and solutions, and rightly so. We are facing many far reaching issues.  But it is often difficult to see problems, and even solutions, when they are very close to us. Repetitive actions are pushed into the part of our brain that deals with habits. That part of our brain can be thought of as the auto pilot. It's a great evolutionary design that allows us to concentrate on higher priority tasks but those habitual processes often become a blur we rarely think about. We have lived our lives walking streets upon streets of green mowed lawns. We have driven countless miles through countryside flanked on both sides by row crops that stretch to the horizon. It is all green and it has all become repetitive. We don't think about what we are looking at. So I'll start with the problem in front of us.

The green turf and acres of monoculture crops give little to no resources to the wildlife that has evolved in our area. Just because it is green doesn't mean it is good. Although esthetically pleasing to our eye, the lawns we are all mowing again are a virtual wasteland to a major number of native species. The fields of corn and wheat offer no nectar for native or migrating birds and insects. By dominating the landscape with exotic plants we are directly impacting the biodiversity of the area. It's simple but we rarely think about it. Insects, animals, and plants have evolved over the centuries alongside each other. This is not new information. Pretty basic grade school stuff. That co-evolution produced a harmonious ecosystem with many species in a natural balance living in their niches. I'm not going to hit you with numbers in this quick post but there is an equation based off of land area and resources that can pretty accurately determine the number of species a contiguous location can support. If you would crunch the numbers you would see the species decline as their resources do. Again, pretty simple. What we have done with our farming, infrastructure, and sprawl is effectively do just that – reduce their contiguous resources. A decline in species is a decline in the health of the ecosystem. Just because you see green doesn't mean it's good. Just because you hear birds outside doesn't mean nature is thriving. The problem is, put simply, that nature can not respond quickly to changes. We have changed the landscape by filling it with exotic plants. Insects do not see these as food. No food – no insects – and the chain is broken.

Solution - native plants. They provide food and shelter for our native and migratory species.  By providing resources we support a healthy biodiversity.  These plants are hardy.  Evolution has adapted them to our climate and they are perfectly suited to St Louis' dynamic weather provided by our location right between a humid continental and humid subtropical climate zone.  A great portion of our water usage goes to watering exotic turf lawns.  Once established native plants require far less supplemental water.  They contribute to the resource pool instead of depleting it.  The benefits don't stop there.  Native plants have deep root systems and do an amazing job of reducing flow into storm water systems.  They also filter the water which leads to cleaner rivers and streams.  We can transform our landscape into one that supports and conserves native biodiversity.

In the city you ask? It would seem that urban environments would be at the bottom of the list for biodiversity stewardship but recent studies have shown that a myriad of species are successful in cities. Nature may be slow to change but it does an incredible job taking advantage of all available space. Given the resources, many plants and animals can coexist – even with Humans.  Native wildflowers come in all shapes, colors, and heights. Many insects are uniquely adapted to specific plants so by planting a variety you are helping conserve local biodiversity. Native grasses also come in a wide variety of sizes and can be quite ornamental.  

You don't have to plant your entire yard. Plant something. A corner that gets good sun or replace some of your existing landscaping with natives that require less maintenance. Is there a part of your yard that gets little attention?  Maybe the side of your house that only the gas meter reader sees would be a great place for some natives. The beauty of living in the city is that our individual efforts can combine to produce something larger than the sum of its parts.  

This is our home. We are proud of St Louis. It's fun to show off our city to visitors. Native plants are unique to this area and help define our little slice of the Earth while preserving our natural heritage. 

Our native species need our help. Let's plant something native.

Happy Earth Day.