The Fayette County Master Gardeners (FCMGV) recommend a trip to Huffman Prairie this summer.
The 112-acre Huffman Prairie (HPSNL) is one of the largest tall grass prairie remnants that exists in Ohio. A tallgrass prairie is a fire dependent ecosystem where tall grasses (6-10 feet) dominate. They have deep rich soils. Less than 4 percent of the 170 million acres that covered North America remain.
HPSNL has a spectacular display of prairie wildflowers (aka forbs) that are at their peak in July. This display is due to an intensive restoration effort by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Five Rivers MetroParks. They manage the site through controlled burns, removing non-native and invasive plants, and reintroducing native plant species. They have seeded and planted a variety of species. You can see purple coneflower, bergamot, prairie coneflower, butterfly milkweed, and blazing star. The queen of the forbs at the site is royal catchfly. She attracts bees and butterflies. Seed from these plants are gathered to use in restoration at other sites.
There is more to see at Huffman Prairie than the plants. There are significant populations of grassland birds such as red-winged blackbird, bobolinks, dickcissels, and sedge wrens. There are 200 species of butterflies and 30 species of moths. The habitat supports pollinators such as bees, flies and beetles.
There is a hiking trail through the prairie. This 1.3 mile trail is rated easy and allows you to get close to the plants and other living creatures. This makes for many opportunities for stunning photographs.
A bonus of a field trip to the prairie is that it is immediately adjacent to Huffman Prairie Flying Field. This is the 84 acre pasture the Wright brothers used in 1904 and 1905 to become successful pilots. They perfected a dependable controlled launch of their airplane. There is a replica of the catapult and hanger used on the site. Nearby is the Huffman Flying Field Visitor Center.
There is something for everyone at the site, maybe even something unexpected. HPSNL is located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. To visit the site by car, enter through WPAFB Gate 16A and follow the signs. For more information, contact Sara Creamer, Fayette County Master Gardener coordinator, at 740-335-1150 or email@example.com.