August 29, 2010

Meadow expert coming to Waxhaw museum
Trena McNabb will talk about creating your own meadow.

By John Anderson
Freelance Writer to the Charlotte Observer

Schweinitz's sunflower is a protected species that once grew wild in the prairies of Union county. It is one of the varieties Trena McNabb will present in her presentation on Sept. 12. PHOTO COURTESY OF HILTON POND CENTER

In July 1960, I boarded a train in New York City and rolled across the country with a couple hundred other Boy Scouts from Long Island to attend the National Jamboree in Colorado Springs, Col.

The trip took three days and two nights. The vision that was burned into my brain was of just how vast (and flat) our country was once we were west of the Mississippi. Every now and then, the panorama of cornfields and wheatfields gave way to open grassland that let us envision what it was like when the middle of the continent consisted of the 3.5 million square miles of prairies that defined the Great Plains.

The "Planet Earth" television series describes it: "Before Europeans came to North America, the Great Plains was vast open grasslands between the western end of the great Atlantic forests and the Rocky Mountains. They were too dry for trees, except in the lowest spots where water can collect. Grasses took over and made a fine home for the great American bison, or buffalo, upon which many Native American tribes depended."

Fast forward 50 years and a few weeks.

I was interested to learn that The Museum of the Waxhaws has teamed up with the Charlotte chapter of the N.C. Native Plant Society to bring Trena McNabb of Winston-Salem to the museum for a talk on "Meadow Making."

In Winston, McNabb turned a utility right-of-way into a thriving meadow featuring the Schweinitz's sunflower, a flower from the original prairies that used to flourish in our county, which is now protected by the Nature Conservancy. McNabb, described as an artist/conservationist, will tell us how she made her meadow and how you can create your own.

McNabb's story of reclamation and renewal promises to be interesting. Her Winston-Salem project took 16 years. Now, native prairie grasses and flowers grow year round and form a canvas of color and history. Along the way she battled bureaucracy, imported plant species and weeds.

The discussion will include methods for controlling unwanted plants; selecting plants; seed collection; special tools; and planting. Refreshments will be served, followed by a walk through some of the prairie remnants in the Waxhaw area.

I was surprised to learn there were, in fact, prairies in the Carolinas. The Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a conservation group in York, S.C. Their website states: "Although it is commonly believed the entire Carolina Piedmont was densely forested prior to the coming of Europeans, the region actually included large expanses of native Piedmont Prairie, especially within 100 km of present-day Charlotte N.C. Such grassy savannas - open plains dotted with occasional trees and shrubs - contained many plants similar to, but distinct from, flora found in the tallgrass and shortgrass prairies of the Midwestern United States."

The presentation will be 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Museum of the Waxhaws off N.C. 75 in Waxhaw. The presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, call the museum at 704-843-1832.

Published: August 29, 2010
Reprinted from the Charlotte Observer
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