UIC's James Woodworth Prairie Preserve
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An Illinois Prairie Remnant

Preserving the Prairie Community

Woodworth Prairie's mission is to maintain populations of native prairie plant and animal species as close as possible to the abundances of Illinois prairies before agriculture. I call the processes involved in doing that REVITALIZATION. Revitalization focuses on reversing past and present anthropogenic abuse, on the complete removal of non-native species, regulating over-abundant native species and manipulating processes to mimic the patterns of those processes before the landscape was dominated by human economic activity.


Leftover Abuse

Natural areas are often used as dumping grounds. JWP was not an exception. In 2009 a volunteer removed slabs of concrete that had been bulldozed into the Milwaukee swale.


The quality of the vegetation is lower near the north and south fences.


One load of concrete removed from the Milwaukee Swale wetland in 2009 before being dumped. Andrew Athens did concrete removal with sledge and shovel.

Andrew Athens standing in the hole created by concrete removal in 2009. About 8 slabs approximately 4' x 5' were removed from the wetland with a sledge and loading of the pieces onto a cart and then to the dumpster.

Picking up debris comes naturally to many people. Hardly anyone would speak against it as an activity, but does it help native species?

I believe the answer is YES! Debris deprives the ground of light and debris proves extra water to the ground adjacent to the debris. This encourages rank vegetation, such as ragweed, rather than prairie plants.

Continuing abuse
Plastic bags blow into the prairie regularly. Utility crews have abused the prairie.


Goal: Complete Elimination of non-native species.

Woodworth Prairie wants only native prairie species on our site.

Techniques of plant species removal
While not philosophically opposed to the use of herbicides, management of JWP tries to find ways to eliminate exotic species without using these powerful chemicals. The techniques include: Pulling, Cutting, Digging,
Girdling and PROCESSES

Digging as management tool

JWP has small buckthorns in scattered locations. Individuals persist even after many burns. I (DN) decided to dig them out. The picture to the right illustrates a buckthorn that was dug from the prairie. The roots were completely severed, i.e., the plant was lifted out of the hole (photo). The plant is then returned to the hole, so that the soil (and the stuff it contains) remain in place. Over time (1 year) the buckthorn dies and the soil falls off the root. I have been very satisfied with the results.

Rhamnus cathartica, buckthorn, that has been dug from the prairie (red flagging binds branches).


For some species herbicide is our preferred method. At JWP Reed canary grass is the most abundant exotic species. It and the following species are normally controlled with glyphosate; Lily-of-the-Valley, Smooth brome, Soapwort, and

Silphium laciniatum, compass plant, at JWP an over-abundant species


Over Abundance regulation
Environmental circumstances favor some species and hurt others. Humans have altered the environment and actions by stewards counteract those effects. Among the native plants that are over-abundant at JWP are Silphium and Solidago. Cottontail abundance is high many years.

Low population sizes
Some prairie species have very low population sizes. Supplementation of such populations by growing individuals in the IC garden increases the probability that the species will persist in the prairie.


The garden surrounding the IC has long served as a place where many of the species characteristic of black-soil prairie could be observed. Another purpose has been added. At least some of the prairie species that are rare in the prairie have been grown in the garden. Included are Geum triflorum, Krigia biflora, Sphenopholis obtusata, Viola pedatifida and others. Seeds from these garden plants will hopefully supplement the small populations of these species.

White tubes marked seedlings planted in garden. Blooming Phlox pilosa was planted as seedlings in a prior year.

Prairie phlox in the IC garden.



Fire is a natural phenomenon which undoubtedly became more frequent after humans first occupied our area, but today humans put them out.


People drain land for many reasons. Illinois was a wet place before ditching and tiling.


Large grazers are gone, but cottontails and voles.

are abundant.


Humans use many elements. Our use has increased amounts of metals and other elements in our environment and may be called eutrophication.

Removal of Chunks of Concrete from swale after 30 Oct 2010 Burn


Traditionally, eutrophication has been used to describe algal blooms in lakes resulting from increased inputs of phosphorous or nitrogen. Humans have increased the concentration of many other elements as well. Iron, Fe, is an example. The amounts in soil have increased because of the widespread use of iron and its quick oxidation. Many other metals are much more available to plants and animals than they were hundreds of years ago. Metals are an essential part of many enzymes. We know little about which species are affected by increased metals.