Prairies and Grasslands
The ongoing tallgrass prairie restoration at Homestead National Monument of America is the second-oldest in the United States. Prior to the acquisition of the Freeman homestead by the National Park Service, the prairie area had been heavily used for agriculture and grazing. It was decided to restore this area to tallgrass prairie to reduce soil erosion and to provide a visual link to the environment encountered by early settlers. The restoration was accomplished through a combination of seeding a mix of native grasses, installation of native plant plugs, and transplanting sod from local areas of unploughed prairie. Management for exotic species has involved mowing, selective herbicide application, and, beginning in 1970, prescribed burning on a regular basis.
Today, the species composition of the tallgrass prairie at Homestead resembles that of presettlement times. Dominant species include big bluestem, little bluestem, Indiangrass, switchgrass, goldenrod, field pussytoes, and leadplant. Interspersed within the prairie are thickets of shrubby species such as sumac, wild plum, and dogwood, which provide habitat for birds and other small animals. Also part of the site is approximately 0.75 acre of tallgrass prairie at the Freeman School, which was incorporated into the park in 1970. This area was never ploughed, and despite heavy use for nearly a century as the school playground, it contains the most diverse assemblage of species found in the park.
Restoration of Native Grassland at Homestead National Monument. By Murie A., 1940.
Did You Know?
Women were allowed to claim 160 acres of land under the Homestead Act, 60 years before they earned the right to vote.