Of course I am speaking about Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota), a non–native plant Nachusa Grasslands stewards and volunteers remove from the prairie!
At first glance, the Queen Anne's lace is lovely, with its elegant white flower head and delicate, fern–like leaves. In addition, as you walk amongst a stand of Queen Anne's, you are greeted with a wonderful carrot aroma, hence the plant's "Wild Carrot" nickname.
While enjoying some lively camaraderie, some volunteers used a spade to remove the Queen Anne's, but most of us just used our muscles and determination to pull them out. After all the rain we have had, the roots easily released from the prairie soil.
What a joy to work hard all morning, surrounded by beautiful scenery and the quiet sounds of nature! Yes, the work can be physical (as much as you choose), but there are some wonderful benefits. There are days in the field when I look up from my task, only to enjoy a herd of bison grazing in the distance. A beautiful bird may perch on a prairie plant near me to sing me a sweet song. As I worked with this amazing group of people, I could feel the stress of my everyday life just melt away. I know Nachusa calls it a workday, but every time I volunteer it is actually a "fun day" for me, filled with a lot of good–natured banter (and great snacks!).
Since first discovering Nachusa in 2012, I try to return weekly to volunteer. The prairie is like a big garden to me and boy, do I love to garden! The kind, respectful community of volunteers this preserve attracts, as well as the the wonderful fellowship we share together, also draws me. I love building relationships with these new friends and professionals interested in land conservation. I have gained many new skills and feel my efforts are greatly appreciated and really make a difference. As always, it was wonderful to be a part of the workday and admire the immediate results of all our efforts together. I left that day, with a feeling of euphoria, amazed at what we had accomplished as a group.
Come join us! I promise you a rewarding experience!
The blog this week was written by Dee Hudson, a volunteer and photographer for Nachusa. To see more prairie images, visit her website at www.deehudsonphotography.com.
Eugene Jones Baldwin
He is a journalist, fiction writer and blogger. He writes history pieces for the Alton Telegraph and is the author of "The Genehouse Chronicles," a collection of essays on nature, people and places along the Mississippi River.