Luton Park Prairie In Bloom

The prairie restoration in Luton Park is blooming this month!

Luton Park in Rockford is known for it’s amazing mountain biking trails, but this park also hosts a unique Michigan landscape: a prairie restoration. Only 1% of Michigan’s natural prairie remains, and Luton Park’s restoration converted farmland back into its near-pre-settlement state. The land in this park had been traditionally farmed since the late-1800’s, but land survey records showed that, before settlement, the park area was largely oak forest and savanna—a prairie with oak trees in it.

The area wasn’t being regularly farmed and had become overgrown with weeds by 2007 when the prairie restoration started. In order to remove the weeds, the land was farmed for three more years—one of those crops being soybean, which introduced nitrogen back into the soil. The nitrogen provided a nutrient boost for the seeds planted in the spring of 2010.

Seeding introduced native grasses and wildflowers to the land, and the overlook decks, accessible from the Kies Street trail head, were installed in 2012.

The prairie restoration in Luton Park has brought back native plant species and been a great source of food and habitat for wildlife. It is a great place to spot wildlife, especially for birdwatchers in spring when woodcocks are performing mating flights. The prairie and park is home to many wildlife species and plants, and it is a beautiful quiet escape from busy urban areas.

Top L to R: Wild Bergamot, Butterfly Weed; Bottom L to R: Black-eyed Susan, Grey-headed Coneflower

Top L to R: Wild Bergamot, Butterfly Weed; Bottom L to R: Black-eyed Susan, Grey-headed Coneflower

Mid-July is peak bloom season for the prairie’s flowering plants. This month, find these wildflowers blooming in the prairie:

  • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberose)
  • Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
  • Motherwort (Leonurus cardiac)
  • Wild Bergamot (Monad fistulosa)
  • Grey-headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  • Common St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)
  • Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
  • Spotted Bee Balm (Monad Punctata)
  • Pale Beard Tongue (Penstemon plaids)
  • Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum)
  • Sensitive Plant (Desmanthus illinoensis)
L to R: Motherwort, Common St. Johnswort, Sensitive Plant

L to R: Motherwort, Common St. Johnswort, Sensitive Plant

Prairie Quick Facts:

– Prairie grasses help increase groundwater recharge because of their deep root systems that allow water to percolate down into soil.

– Prairies are homes to a variety of birds like wild turkeys, bluebirds, bobwhite quail, meadowlarks, and many types of songbirds and ground-nesting birds.

– Prairies provide a key food source for wildlife because they’re abundant in seeds and insects.

Don’t forget—July is National Parks and Recreation Month! Celebrate by visiting Luton Park, or any one of our 38 parks and 4 regional trails.

Special thanks to Kent County Parks Department landscape architect, Brian Mulligan, for providing information on the the restoration project, and Sally Traint for the photos and identification of the flowers.

Posted on July 18, 2016 .