Those who drive by the Morris Reserve on Lower Bellbrook Road in Sugarcreek Twp. might have noticed the acres of wildflowers that bloomed this spring.
Officials say they are the result of work by the Bellbrook Sugarcreek Park District during the past two years.
The tall grass prairie, located at 3151 Lower Bellbrook Rd., is loaded with yellow- and purple-tinted flowers this year, an blooming that happens only occasionally in an open prairie field, according to Kendra Schide, BSPD naturalist.
“It’s a monoculture,” Schide said of the yellow lance-leaf coreopsis wildflower that dominates the landscape, with crimson clover and yarrow wildflowers blooming alongside them.
“They came up last year a little bit. It takes quite a few years to establish.”
The park district acquired the 178-acre park about two years ago from the Morris family, partly through donation of the land and grant funds from Clean Ohio and the Dayton Foundation, said Jeff Stewart, executive director of the Bellbrook Sugarcreek Park District.
About 100 acres of the park is devoted to open space that’s been planted and cultivated as a prairie.
Stewart said the park district purchased and planted $30,000 worth of dormant prairie seed to establish the habitat, which attracts bees, birds and other pollinators. Milkweed was planted to attract monarch butterflies.
Stewart said the seed grew species native to Ohio, and efforts have removed invasive species from the property.
“We’ve done an extensive amount of honeysuckle, invasive management,” Stewart said. “We’ve killed probably 100 acres of honeysuckle over the course of the past two years since we acquired the property.”
Stewart said getting rid of honeysuckle, which was brought to the United States from overseas, is enabling the wildflowers to flourish.
The park district is trying to establish the prairie, which will require some attention over the next several years.
Schide said the field will need to be mowed or burned occasionally. She said the grasses should eventually grow up to 10 feet high, which will attract ground-nesting birds like bobolinks and meadowlarks.
“Many of the prairies have been lost over time. They were here when the Native Americans were here. It’s important to reestablish them,” she said.
Stewart said a lot of artifacts have been found on the property and preserved. He said the park district is working on plans to add programming and attract more visitors to the park.
“The park is going to be a path for passive recreation, essentially,” he said.
To learn more, visit the BSPD website at bellbrooksugarcreekparks.org.
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