If you really want to see the prairie, you have to get out of your vehicle and walk upon it. So it is with our native plant gardens, and that is why they are called the Prairie Walk. It is one thing to read about a prairie, it is quite another to walk though one. Our mission with the Prairie Walk is to re-create a small sample of this shared natural heritage.
The Dakota prairies are the stuff of legend. Vast herds of buffalo, earth lodge villages, Sitting Bull and his Lakota warriors, cowboys, homesteaders, sheepherders, and pioneers all contributed to the rich and colorful history of this region. It was the prairie that drew them here, and it was the prairie that sustained them. In the course of settlement, the animals, the people, and the prairies themselves went through many changes. Today the prairie exists only in scattered remnants, and is much different from its original condition.
The prairie gardens follow the seasonal rhythms of the natural world, and the first to arrive after a long winter are the pasque flowers, moss phlox, and wild parsley. Springtime comes alive with the new leaves and blossoms of buffaloberry, chokecherry, golden currant and wild plum. June brings the delicate swaying of blue flax and the pink blossoms and sweet scent of wild prairie roses. July follows with a profusion of prairie coneflowers and pricklypear cactus blossoms. In August, horsemint dots the landscape with purple, and goldenrods, sunflowers, and snakeweeds are ablaze with their colors. By September, prairie asters and bee spiderflowers have added to this annual production, and ripened grasses and berries glow in the late light of the prairie season.
"...while I know the standard claim is that Yosemite, Niagara Falls, the upper Yellowstone and the like afford the greatest natural shows, I am not so sure but the prairies and the plains, while less stunning at first sight, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest, and make North America's characteristic landscape. Indeed, through the whole of this journey, what most impressed me, and will longest remain with me, are these same prairies. Day after day, and night after night, to my eyes, to all my senses, the esthetic one most of all, they silently and broadly unfolded. Even their simplest statistics are sublime."
Walt Whitman, Specimen Days, 1879