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Josh's Prairie Planting Update: May 2023

Josh Wiese here, Crane Trust Range Manager. Over the past six years, I have been experimenting with propagating native plants in the Crane Trust’s Education Greenhouse. The construction of the greenhouse was funded by a PIE Grant through the Nebraska Academy of Sciences and the Nebraska Environmental Trust to provide opportunities for volunteerism and learning to understand the importance of native prairie plants to ecological health of our Platte River system and a means to restore lost or underrepresented native biodiversity. We have focused our efforts on growing host plants for two native species of butterfly, the Regal Fritillary (Spereyia idalia) and Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies. While it is commonly known that Monarch Butterflies require milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) for their caterpillars to hatch and consume on, it is less common knowledge that Regal Fritillary butterflies need native violets (Viola spp.) in the same way. We have focused much of our greenhouse space propagating these much-needed species, as well as species of conservation concern in the state, such as Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), and other important pollinator nectar resources like Beebalm (Monarda spp.) and several species in the Aster/Sunflower family (Asteraceae).

With the help of students, volunteers, and interns, over 2,500 native plants have been grown and planted. They have been planted to enhance floristic resources throughout our prairies, as well as been used to create pollinator gardens at the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center and elsewhere throughout the community. This is an exciting year for the greenhouse and the Crane Trust as we are on tract to break our yearly record! Already this year volunteers and I have planted over 600 native plants, and we have donated an additional 300 throughout the community! During the second week of May, a group of three volunteers planted over 400 milkweeds alone! The Crane Trust is expecting to plant at least another 1,000 native plants throughout the spring. If you are interested in learning more about native plants, pollinators, prairies, and ecosystem health, we are always looking for volunteers to join us with our fun! Explore the rest of Crane Trust's website for more volunteer opportunities and more information on pollinator health.

For the love of prairies,