Friday, February 12, 2010

This Week in Iowa Nature

February 12, 1875: Fragments of the Amana Meteorite, a brilliant fireball that flashed across the midwestern night sky, fell in Iowa County.

Jean C. Prior and James Sandrock, The Iowa Nature Calendar

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Plant of the Week

Ground plum
Astragalus crassicarpus Nutt.
other common names: buffalo apple, buffalo pea, buffalo plum, milk vetch, buffalo bean
Astragalus: ancient Greek name for a leguminous plant. It actually means “star” and “milk.” (This is one of the largest genera of flowering plants in North America.)
Crassicarpus: from Latin and Greek, meaning “thick pod,” which aptly describes the thick, rounded fruit pods of this species
Legume family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)

Monday, February 8, 2010

An Interview with Carl Kurtz

How long have you been working to protect and reconstruct prairies?
Our first prairie planting was in 1975 along a roadside; it is still in existence and continues to develop. We presently have about 250 prairie acres we own or help manage. 

What species of plants or animals are you especially interested in? 
My focus is on species diversity of both plants and animals. We strive to attain the highest species diversity possible.

How do you merge your photography and writing with your hands-on reconstruction work? 
Photography has been a way to record the successional development of prairie plantings and the seasonal changes in the prairie community. It has been a very good way to promote the prairie to the general public. 

What has changed in the outdoor world since your first days of trying to protect it? What's better, what's worse? 
More prairies are now being planted than at any time in the past 150 years as wildlife habitat, buffer strips, wetland mitigations, and just for pleasure. Diversity is still not what it should be to produce the best habitat and long-term stability. 

What advice would you give to beginning conservationists? What are the particular challenges of being a conservationist in the Midwest?
If you are just beginning, be prepared to hang in there for the long haul—changes do not come about quickly on a landscape scale. But if you could look back 30 years, you would see that we have made tremendous strides. 

What are your favorite natural areas in Iowa and the Midwest? What areas do you return to constantly, and what's your favorite newly visited area?
My favorite natural area is where I live simply because it so accessible. We generally visit a number of local marshes and virgin prairies on a regular basis. These are areas which are close by and do not require a lot of traveling to get to. 

Carl Kurtz, A Practical Guide to Prairie Reconstruction