Prairie 4 – My Perspective – My Name is Clovis

DHEC stream team with Wingate University interns at Thompson Creek

My name is Clovis but most just call me Prairie Four. I prefer my real name because it highlights one of my most unique features – my shape. Since 1994 I have sported my clovis shape with pride. I was once an old agricultural field before being planted with pines in 2005 where I sat in the shade, falling deeper below the forest litter smothering my seed bank. Just when I thought I had seen the last of my journey, I was acquired by my founders. Finally, after thirteen years the pines were removed. I heard my neighbors Prairies One and Five talking about the native seeds they were going to receive and sat anxiously awaiting my planting date. The days came and went until the planting day was finally here. I watched the equipment enter Halfmoon and pass me by. I was disappointed and felt like giving up. For the first few years of my prairie life, I didn’t try very hard. I felt as if I had given up on and I let the invasive species overtake me at my lowest point. For two years I wallowed under the dense Chinese Bush Clover and Brazilian Vervain plants that suffocated my surface.

By my third year I was hearing my neighbors whisper to each other about someone new, a Prairie Keeper. She started to come out and visit me often, walking through the wildlife paths carved through my sides and center by White Tail Deer. That was when I learned about the other unplanted prairies… I was not alone. Prairie Three was not planted either and apparently was suffering the same pain as I, covered with invasive Chinese Bush Clover and Vervain. I received my first mowing that year and my confidence was restored. I was going to prove that I could be just as magnificent and beneficial without a fancy seed mix. From that day forward I focused on my own growth rather than my neighbors.

Today I am a natural prairie and boast over fifty different native plant species including Bushy Bluestem Grass, Little Bluestem Grass, Splitbeard Bluestem Grass, and Partridge Pea. All of which were included in that fancy native seed mix in the planted prairies, but I host them for free – naturally. I am also home to the second largest stand of Dogbane, host plant of the Dogbane Caterpillar which was found in among my leaves this summer by an intern now attending Francis Marion University.

Stand of Dogbane
Stand of Dogbane

In addition to the Dogbane Caterpillar, I host many other species. To my right edge a Peterson style Bluebird box sits facing east over the prairie. I have watched two families of Bluebirds move in. Watching the baby birds take wing for the first time always makes me shiver and reminds me of my first native plant sprouts after that first mow so long ago. My close proximity to the Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests of lower Halfmoon ensures I see large wildlife too, like the White Tail Deer couple that spent their fall and winter with me and the fawns that rested among my grasses in the spring. I was also fortunate enough to host flocks of wild turkeys who were often searching for masts along my edges as well as coyotes, rabbits, and foxes who always left clues for my Prairie Keeper to document their presence.

The wildlife I saw this year was truly exciting, but they were not my only visitors this year. I am directly across from the Kayak Pull-Out in Halfmoon and was able to witness interns from Wingate University sample for aquatic macroinvertebrates each Friday from the end of summer through fall. Another professor and Carolina Wildlands fellow also visited this area a few times with large electric backpacks and nets, they sampled the fish population in the creek and were entertaining to watch. One afternoon I witnessed smoke filling the forest around me and saw flames creeping over the creek bank, the Peninsula across the creek received a prescription burn and shortly after so did some of my neighbors in Halfmoon.

This year was a year of improvement. My plant population grows more diverse each year and I am proud of the diversity I am developing; natural beauty is powerful too. I am excited for another year and if you are wondering if I am ready…. I was born ready, pal.

As told to Brianna Bergamini – Prairie Keeper