Big Hill Prairie Restoration Update

(Today’s post is a compilation of reports provided by Rock County Conservationists’ Kevin Kawula and Dave Bendlin)

Spring and Summer land management was greatly reduced due to the Covid 19 pandemic, but some basic activities did resume at Big Hill Park around the Big Hill Center, Newsome Educational Gardens, and adjacent natural areas of interest.

To the east of the parking lot is the eastern prairie planting where volunteers have been spreading wildflower seed the past few years; more blooming plants are showing where there were only grasses. Rosin weed has shown up in several clumps which were brought up from Silphium Island, and a few Yellow Coneflower and Black Eyed Susan clumps. One clump of Cream Gentian was spotted (State Threatened). In May, Bur Oak saplings were planted alongside the bike trail and additional wild Bur Oaks have started to reappear in the cleared areas. 

(Top: Big Hill Prairie entrance, 8/22/17; Bottom: Entrance, 9/24/20; Right: Front edge of prairie at entrance, 9/4/19. Note the increase in native varieties in the later photos, thanks to several seasons of seeding activities).

86 native wetland plants from the RCC Plant Sale

The Poison Ivy patch persists, and was cut down with the White Sweet Clover, but I (KK) got a nice case of Poison Ivy. Noxema helped a lot. Poison Ivy is a significant concern in several areas having large/extensive patches with climbing vines dangling overhead, and will likely need to be addressed with the City of Beloit Public Works using chemical controls

A mix of eighty six (86) native wetland plants – from the RCC Plant Sale – were transplanted in along the southern east to west drainage way with ephemeral streamlet – species included Cord Grass, Southern Blue Flag Iris, Turtlehead, Marsh Milkweed, Obedient Plant, Great Blue Lobelia, Blue Vervain, Sweet Black Eyed Susan, Prairie Doc, and Cardinal Flower. Between the local conditions and rains, at last check, most of the plants had established, but the Reed Canary Grass and Canada Goldenrod will be the main management concern.  

were transplanted along the southern drainage way.

The southern drainage also continues east to the entry drive west off of Big Hill Court to Big Hill Center, and there are additional sedge meadow & woodland plants along the entry drive. In late August, DuPont volunteers started clearing back European Buckthorn, Honeysuckle, and brush from the entry drive. This was done as before for safety sight lines, and to prune up to redistribute sunlight resources

In November, if weather and conditions permit, the City of Beloit Parks Department will conduct a prescribed burn of the field east of the center parking lot to prepare this area for a fall overseeding with prairie wildflower seeds that have been collected from native prairie remnants and planted prairies in Rock county. Volunteers will be needed to help spread the seeds over the burned area. This is easy work suitable for participants of all ages. This event will be run by the RCC, but keep an eye on the Welty calendar for dates and sign-up information (the tentative date is Dec. 5, 10am).

Brenda Plakans
Executive Director, WEC