Native Plantings

Three Tiered Prairie Community

The basin has been converted into a three-tiered prairie system, comprised of a wet prairie community, a wet-mesic community, and a mesic savanna community. The first tier consists of wet prairie plantings that tolerate inundation and saturated soils or extend periods after storm events. The second tier occupies the better drained portion of the basin floor and transitions up the side slopes of the basin. This wet-mesic prairie tolerates a drier hydrological regime and periodic inundation after typical two-year storm events. The third tier is established on the well drained side slopes and the basin perimeter and includes trees and shrubs. Illustrated below is a typical profile of the basin.


 Native Plants

The native and wetland plantings were installed on May 17, 2011. Below, the left-hand picture shows the plantings positioned between cones before installation. The right-hand picture shows the native plugs being planted and the erosion control blanket being laid.

Diagram 1
Diagram 2

Above is an illustration of the plant heights and root depths of common prairie plants. Descriptions of some of the native plantings installed in the basin along with images of the plantings when mature are provided below. Big Bluestem, Rosin Weed, and Switchgrass, described below, are labeled as 1, 2, and 3, respectively, on the prairie plant root system illustration above. Other plants present in the basin and also depicted above include Indian Grass, Compass Plant, Prairie Cord Grass, Prairie Dropseed, Side Oats Gramma, White Wild Indigo, and Little Bluestem. These plants are marked on the prairie plant root system figure with a black diamond.

Big Bluestem, also known as Turkey Foot, grows to heights of 3-10 feet. The main roots of the Big Bluestem can extend downward to 10 feet. As it matures, the stem base turns to a shade of blue-purple. Big Bluestem is used for erosion control and serves as excellent forage for livestock. (1)


Switchgrass blooms in the mid summer and reach heights of approximately 3 to 5 feet, with roots reaching depths of 11 feet. Switchgrass is used for erosion control, wildlife habitat and food, and there has been recent interest in using Switchgrass as a renewable biofuel resource. (2)

The Rosin Weed, also known as the Cup Plant, grows to be almost 10 feet tall with roots extending downward to 10 feet. It has green foliage and yellow flowers. (3)


Eastern Purple Coneflower, also known as Echinacea purpurea, blooms from early to late summer. The Eastern Purple Coneflower has rigid, unbranched stems and hairy, rough leaves. When fully mature, purple cone flowers are about 1 foot tall. Echinacea is widely used as an herbal remedy.

The Fox Sedge blooms from May through June. It grows to be approximately 3 feet tall when fully mature and the main roots extend downward to approximately 16 feet. The Fox Sedge thrives on moist, open ground like in swamps, prairies, and along marshes.


Cardinal Flowers can reach 6 feet tall and bloom in the summer. They have unbranched stems and topped with fire engine red flowers and blue fruits. The roots of Cardinal Flowers extend downward to 12 feet. Hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar of this plant.

Prairie Blazing Stars have green foliage, purple flowers, and brown seeds/fruits. This plant blooms in the middle of summer and reaches 3½ feet tall when fully mature, with roots going as deep as 14 feet. Prairie Blazing Star is used for prairie restoration and wildlife food and habitat.


The New Jersey Tea is considered to be a perennial shrub that blooms late in the spring. The New Jersey Tea grows to almost 3 feet with 14 feet deep roots, but it grows slowly.

The Bluejacket is a spring flowering bulb that produces navy blue, spiked flowers. It grows to approximately 10 inches in height.


The Swamp Milkweed has green foliage, red flowers, and brown seeds. The Swamp Milkweed blooms in the fall. The plant can reach up to 5 feet when fully mature and has roots that spread up to 18 feet deep.

Tall Tickseed thrives in sunny habitats and has green foliage and yellow flowers. When fully mature, Tall Tickseed reaches heights between 3 and 7 feet.


Butterfly Milkweed reaches heights of 1½ to 3 feet when fully mature and bloom throughout the summer. Butterfly Milkweed used to be used widely for medicinal purposes.

Virginia Iris have slightly fragrant flowers that range in color from deep violet to pinkish-white. When fully mature, Virginia Iris grow to be approximately 3½ feet tall with roots 6 feet deep.


The Sweet Coneflower branches occasionally and is 2½ to 4 feet tall. The leaves are soft and covered with fine white hairs. Sweet Coneflowers thrive in moist, sunny habitats. The roots of Sweet Coneflowers spread up to 5 feet deep.