In 2014, the Northwest Illinois Prairie Enthusiasts undertook a new conservation project for Jo Daviess County, the Species Conservation Project (SCP). For over 20 years we’ve been creating new prairies and savannas. Now we will also work to create three or more safe populations of every native prairie plant on protected, well-managed sites, in Jo Daviess County.
This will be very difficult to do, but it is a goal worthy of our efforts. To grasp the scope of the problem, consider the following. There are 617 prairie and savanna plants native to Jo Daviess County. Of these:
- 174 species are now safe, over 80 due to our previous efforts
For example, in 1985 there were only a half dozen rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) plants growing in Jo Daviess County. Today, there are thousands. All of them growing on our prairie restorations.
-127 species are not now safe, but can be made safe in the short-term
For example, there are now several populations of white prairie clover (Dalea candida). But all of these are too small to be stable and/or located on unprotected sites. Generally, a population needs at least 100 individuals to be considered safe.—and the site needs to be well-managed.
-126 species can be made safe, but it will take a long time
For example, cream indigo (Baptisia bracteata leucophaea) lives at three protected sites in the county. However there are so few plants that there’s not enough seed to include it in our restoration projects. This plant requires “seed amplification,” that is, growing more plants horticulturally to increase the supply of seed. Alternatively, we could buy seed but at a cost of 55 cents per seed. Still, it will be 8-10 years before these plants mature sufficiently to produce seed.