Native Plantings At Dahlem
As part of our on-going stewardship program at Dahlem, not only are we systematically removing non-native invasive plants from the landscape, but we are also replacing them by planting native species. As you walk the trails, you may notice areas where individual plants are surrounded by wire cages. These are the newest plantings, which, if left unprotected, would soon be devoured by the many hungry deer that also make Dahlem their home.
The highlight of our restoration program is our 16 acre native prairie. While true prairies were not historically a part of the landscape in this part of Michigan, some prairies did exist in the southwestern portion of the state. Since most, if not all, of Dahlem’s property had been used for agriculture until about the mid-1900s, we decided to maintain open areas by “restoring” them to prairie habitats.
In the late 1980s, a small section along the southern edge of the prairie area was carefully cultivated with seeds collected locally of native plants, such as spiderwort, Michigan lily, and blazing star. Today, we use fire and the careful application of herbicides to keep invasive plants under control, and we plant native seeds and seedlings in their preferred habitats. Our goal in bringing back native vegetation is twofold. First, we hope to restore some of the native landscape, which in this part of Michigan was oak-savannah forest. Second, by bringing back native vegetation, we are providing homes and food sources for many of our native birds and insects, both of which are suffering declines across the country due to habitat loss. Native plantings can also be found at the Visitor Center’s Native Plant garden and throughout the rest of the property.