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A Visit to the Cajun Prairie

Welcome to the Cajun Prairie Restoration site in Eunice, LA.

Saturday, I visited a couple of prairie sites in and near Eunice, Louisiana.

The tours were part of the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society meeting.

I have been a member of this group for many years and am totally humbled by the wonderful things they have done.

The Cajun Prairie Society formally started in 1989.

The two main movers and shakers were Dr. Charles Allen and Dr. Malcolm Vidrine.  These two had begun exploring tallgrass prairie remnants in south Louisiana.

White false indigo and bee balm mingle with dewberries and grasses at the Eunice site.

As a group they were able to obtain a lease on a piece of wasteland adjacent to an abandoned railroad track and a low income neighborhood.

They quickly began seeding and transplanting prairie plants to the site.

The society was eventually able to buy the land and over the years has installed a pic-nic shelter, sidewalks, signage and benches.

It is a grand place to visit.  The best time is at one of the society’s two annual meeting.  The first is in late spring – usually late April or early May and the second in late summer.  I just attended the early meeting.  The benefit of a meeting and not just a self-guided tour is that you can walk the site with Dr. Allen and Dr. Vidrine.  What a treat!

It may seem that you are lost in a sea of gamma grass and bee balm until you notice the adjacent houses.

Blooming highlights of the Eunice prairie were masses of white false indigo (Baptisia alba), bee balms (Monarda fistulosa and Monarda lindheimeri), early rosin weed (Silphium gracile) and black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta).

There were scattered hot pink rose gentians (Sabatia campanulata), pristine white butterfly gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) and magenta sensitive briar (Mimosa microphylla).  The first of the narrowleaf mountain mints (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) were starting to turn frosty white.  Later two other mountain mints will bloom along with two species of obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana and P. intermedia).  The perennial hibiscus or rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) sported buds and button snakeroot (Eryngium yuccafolium) looked like a robust blue yucca just waiting to burst into flower.

The grasses were beginning to assert themselves – soaring upward.

We wandered through the prairie pausing to graze on dewberries lost in the tallgrass.  We seemed to be miles away from civilization but a glance at the horizon showed houses in the distance.

Today’s blog post will consist mostly of pictures taken at the Eunice site this year and last year at the May meeting.

Malcolm Vidrine explores a mass of yellow false indigo loaded with seed pods.

One day I hope to visit the site when the yellow false indigo (Baptisia sphaerocarpa) is in full bloom.  This is usually in late March.  Last weekend they were loaded with seed pods as far as I could see.  I can only imagine what a spectacular thing it must be to see them in full bloom.

Another goal is to make it to the prairie in late summer to see the gayfeather in flower.  The tall stately Liatris pycnostachya is a lovely thing and this site it full of it.  Two other species of gayfeather (L. acidota and L. spicata) bloom earlier in the summer.

If you want to learn more about the Cajun Prairie, I highly recommend Malcolm Vidrine’s wonderful book, The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History.

 

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