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A week in pictures at Lake Elmo Park Reserve

By: Aimee Junget

Here it is, the first full week of fall. Cooler temperatures and changing colors make working outside that much sweeter. This past week, the St. Paul Roving Crew was working with Washington County at Lake Elmo Park Reserve. The park is just about 4 square miles, a large percentage of which is devoted to preservation and restoration to native prairie and oak savannah. I had never been to the park before working there, but I know now I will be back– especially to experience the park in winter for some cross-country skiing. Here are some pictures highlighting the projects our crew was a part of this week out at the park.

Who doesn’t love a good before and after picture? Throughout the week, our crew cleared buckthorn, an invasive species of tree that out-competes native plants. We used a variety of methods including foliar spraying, basal bark spraying, and cutting. In this picture, our crew cleared using chainsaws and brush saws, allowing native trees and plants such as bur oak to obtain more sunlight and nutrients that the buckthorn would have depleted. And, hey, there’s a wetland back there visitors to the park can finally see through those aspens!

The fall phenology of the prairie is highlighted as the forbs and grasses that have been coloring the prairie all summer begin to seed. Our crew ventured out through the prairies collecting seeds from plants like wild rye, partridge pea, evening primrose, rough blazing star (pictured below), bergamot, and hyssop–the last two leaving your hands with distinct smells characteristic to the mint family. The seeds collected will be used to seed other parts of the park in the restoration process.

Of course, I couldn’t leave this post without a wildflower picture. The New England asters, late bloomers of the prairie, were in full bloom showing off their vibrant purple color.