I had a grand time at the Nepean Horticultural Society on Thursday, talking about wildflower meadows. One of the best parts of the evening was the questions after my talk. Some great, thoughtful, questions came from the audience – thanks to all who asked.
(I am a bit slow getting to this. The cold I was fending off all week, so that I could give the talk Thursday evening, exacted vengeance on Friday and through the weekend.)
One of the most remarked upon parts of my talk was the illustration of the depths of roots of various prairie plants and wildflowers. I thought I would put up this illustration, from Conservation Research Institute, 1995, to give everyone another look at this phenomenon.
The botany prof who first drew all these wonderful root systems, whose name I couldn’t recall, was a Dr Weaver, of the University of Nebraska, and he is the subject of a fine blog post in the blog Gardenhistorygirl. I urge you to click through to see some astonishing botanical illustration work.
Prairie plants root systems sequester carbon in the soil as they build organic matter in topsoil. I mentioned this briefly in my talk. The Guardian newspaper recently published an article on how farming practices affect the amount of carbon in the soil: Our best shot at cooling the planet might be right under our feet. Imagine the difference in carbon sequestration between a field growing little bluestem as a perennial hay, and, say, industrial corn. You may not be in a position to seed an hundred acres in little bluestem, but you may want to be part of the solution by doing your little bit, creating a small meadow of native grasses and flowers where you can, in your yard or at your church or school.
Also, while you are here, take a look at the roots of Cylindric Blazing Star, second from the right. Wow! Cylindric Blazing Star is a little thing, no bigger than a petunia plant, and its roots go down 15 feet.