Monday, April 13, 2009

The Little Prairie in the Cemetery

Posted By on Mon, Apr 13, 2009 at 1:16 PM

The Economist magazine is out with an article on the little-known prairie-restoration project inside Cavalry Cemetery.

The 477-acre graveyard in north St. Louis City is the final resting place of playwright Tennessee Williams and Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman. It's also home to more prairie plants than you'll find anywhere around.

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Per the Economist (with some of its uniquely British spellings):
A detailed study found more than 130 species of native prairie plants, from the tallgrass that towered over the first settlers to the smallest, most delicate wild flowers. The city crowds all round it. Indeed, it is the only known piece of prairie within the Interstate 270 loop that circles the St Louis metro region.

Although the plot had been spared, it had been invaded by black locust trees and ornamentals imported from Asia. Joint efforts are now being made by the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Nature Conservancy and the Green Centre of St Louis to encourage the native plants and weed out the intruders. The best way to do that is to burn the land, as happens naturally with wildfires. A number of controlled burns of small sections have eliminated some intrusive species while revitalising the native plants. The burned areas have already sprung back to life, healthier than before.
The Catholic archdiocese owns the cemetery and has made a 100-year commitment to leave the land as a preserve. 

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