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Prairie Walk to explore rare plants, habitat on Jasper County farm

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017 10:25 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017 10:26 a.m. CDT

COLLINS — Paul Lengeling, of Lomp Lengeling Farms, will host a free prairie walk from 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday on his farm near Collins, 11374 W. 124th St. N. — about two miles south and one mile east of town. All ages and experience levels with prairie are welcome to attend.

The event is sponsored by Jasper County Conservation and Prudenterra, and will occur rain or shine.

Please dress for all weather circumstances. A hat, long pants and sleeves, and closed-toed shoes are recommended. Wear shoes that are clean and free of dirt and weed seeds. Guests are also advised to bring a bottle of water.

The prairie walk is one of several free prairie learning events coordinated by the Iowa Prairie Network, a statewide nonprofit, to honor Iowa Prairie Heritage Week, which runs from Sept. 10 through Sept. 16. A list of all the events taking place around the state that week can be found at iowaprairienetwork.org

Lengeling has lived on his family farm in Jasper County his entire life. The land features woodlands, an oak savanna, reconstructed prairie as well as a native prairie remnant he discovered in 2016.

During the prairie walk, guests will get to see three diverse sites in various stages of restoration on his land: a prairie remnant spanning one-third of an acre; a reconstructed prairie one-half of an acre in its first year of establishment; and a 6.7-acre oak savanna remnant featuring bur oak, white and black oaks and shagbark hickory.

Lengeling will describe his family history on the farm, his ancestors’ passion for wildflowers and efforts to continue stewarding the land. Guests will learn how Lengeling uses chainsaws and judicious application of herbicides to kill undesirable woody vegetation, which suppress the prairie wildflowers. He will share his experience burning prairie in the spring and how this results in the emergence of diverse wildflower species, and will demonstrate the process of hand-weeding non-native legumes such as sweet clover, red clover and noxious weeds such as wild parsnip.

“It’s utterly amazing how resilient native plants are,” Lengeling said. “Give them a little nurturing care and they quickly regenerate and thrive in their environment.”

Prairie and oak savanna once covered over 86.2 percent of Iowa’s land. Today, less than one-tenth of a percent of this ecosystem remains. These remnants are still being discovered each year by farmers and farmland owners.

Lengeling found evidence in 2016 of a remnant prairie on his land. The discovery prompted him take action to protect it. He also inspired his family to get involved and hired Luke Gran of Prudenterra, a local Nevada-based business, to help expand the vigor and diversity of the native plants he found.

Luke, who also serves as a Region 5 board member for the Iowa Prairie Network, invited Lengeling to host the prairie walk to showcase the diverse ecosystems still present on Lengeling’s land to the wider community. Lomp Lengeling Farms owns several hundred acres of farmland in Jasper, Polk and Story counties, and about 130 acres of timber along three streams: Wolf Creek, Indian Creek and Clear Creek. The family recently conducted a small timber sale on part of their woodlands to help generate revenue from the sale of mature black walnut trees. They are reinvesting some of the proceeds into the restoration of their land.

Directions from U.S. Highway 65 — Only enter from the North. Go East on N. 115th Ave. W. for one mile until W. 124th St. N. Turn right (go south) for about half a mile. Turn right (go west) into a dirt driveway along the east side of the pond. Park and follow the signs to the prairie remnant to the south.

Iowa Prairie Heritage Week 2017 prairie walks are made possible by the all-volunteer-run nonprofit organization Iowa Prairie Network. Members come from all parts of Iowa. Membership is $20 per year for individuals or $30 per year for families. Memberships and donations help fund research and ecosystem management on prairie remnants in Iowa. To join, visit iowaprairienetwork.org/membership.html

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