St. Joseph – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and Missouri State Western University (MSWU) recently dedicated a native grassland restoration on the university campus. A ribbon cutting marked the end of the first growing season for the John Rushin Teaching and Research Prairie. The grassland is named for John Rushin, retired biology department director at the university. Native grasses and wildflowers represent the natural ecology that once covered most of northwest Missouri’s rolling hills.
“I am honored beyond my wildest expectations in having my name on this project,” Rushin said. “Most of all, I am very happy that MDC and the biology department are able to move forward on a project like this in these difficult times.”
MDC helped plant 26 acres of prairie wildflowers and grasses early in 2020. The planting is part of a 38-acre tract that includes the MWSU athletic department’s cross country running course. Students will use the planting to study prairie ecology, and the public will get to visit to enjoy the wildflowers.
“This is the beginning of a great outdoor learning space that will be used by students, faculty, and the community for years to come,” said Mark Mills, MWSU biology professor, who helped plan the restoration. “I want to thank our partners, especially Jeff Powelson and the Missouri Department of Conservation for all that they have done to make this prairie a reality.”
The Nature Conservancy donated native plant seeds collected at Dunn Ranch Prairie in Harrison County. MDC purchased a high diversity seed mix. The seeds planted include 80 different species of native grasses and wildflowers.
Deep-rooted prairie plants take time to develop root systems and relationships with the soil microbes that have a symbiotic relationship with natives. The grassland will begin showing a fuller expression with tall grasses and blooming wildflowers in the third growing season, Powelson said. Walking trails, interpretive markers and a savannah tree planting are also part of the restoration plan.
For more information about the project, call 816-364-3662. Ext. 5772. To learn more about Missouri’s rich prairie heritage, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZxM.