sna poems #122: oakfield railroad prairie

first intimate stop of the day. a former railroad, this sna is 10 acres in a straight line. lined with shrubs and trees, but still a surprisingly diverse prairie flora all along the way.

i’m grateful folks have activated these old rail lines so we can get to meet plants we might not elsewhere in human-shaped habitats. beautiful start to the day.

first id’s of four o’clock, meadowsweet, giant ragweed, wild cucumber, and tick-trefoil.


straight-line habitat

all decked out:

white, purple, yellow


where boxcars once hauled,

st. john’s wort

nestles in the grass


little downy one,

now it’s just

you and four o’clocks

if you made it this far… caterpillars on toadflax! (plus a couple more plants)

sna poems, #110: audubon goose pond

audubon goose pond is a turbid pond with surrounding prairie in a marshy basin of ground moraine. we hiked the prairie in the year’s first good snow—a little dodgy at points, but piloted with grace and confidence by my brother.

the pond itself is not accessible due to the protections in place for the many bird species who make the area their home, but the prairie was lovely as the snow fell and wind blew. something about prairies in winter; i just love it.

two further notes: this plot and some surrounding parcels are further remnants of the formerly huge empire prairie that spanned swaths of these parts north of madison.

back to the flip phone for this venture.


winds away southward

new snowfall

on russet and black


this rolling swelling

ground was once

the empire prairie


a single oak leaf


in the grassy wind

human tracks.
snowy, grey prairie sky.

sna poems #99: albany sand prairie and oak savanna

the albany sand prairie and oak savanna has an unplowed sand prairie, accompanying oak barrens and oak opening, a dry-mesic prairie, and an oak wood along the sugar river.

a very pleasant walk. first id’s of grass pink, hedge parsley, and american germander. also a species of primrose i haven’t seen before.


a monarch’s proboscis

curls into bergamot:

blossom and insect


life finite

and inexhaustible

in the oak savanna


the air is heavy with water

flowers and frogs thick

on the sand prairie ground

sna poems #98: muralt bluff prairie

i’m digging these prairies set on hills out west of me in wisconsin.

muralt bluff prairie lies along a curving ridge in the contact area between wisconsin’s glaciated and drifltess areas. there are fantastic displays of wildflowers from spring till fall, with several rare species represented.

it was a slick climb up (courtesy of the rain earlier in the morning), but the dense stands of wild bergamot and tall bell flower along the muddy wooded trail made up for the effort. the prairie itself and the view of woods and rolling farmland from the ridgetop were fabulous.

first id’s of grey-headed cone flower and prairie rosinweed!


coneflower and thimbleweed,

crane rattle—

bergamot kingdom


this rounded crown

between two lands

bees on the wing

if you made it this far: you are here.

sna poems #96: york prairie

on to green county! my dad and brother were along for the trip this time, and we did a day-long tour of the county with five sna’s.

green county is in the driftless area, the part of wisconsin (and neighboring minnesota and iowa) that was not smoothed and altered by the wisconsin glaciation, as the rest of the state was. different terrain but still southern wisconsin.

our first stop was york prairie, which contains remnant tallgrass prairie, a multitude of native plants, and rare and threatened plants. the sandy soil and rocky terrain were a new experience in prairie for me, and a light shower gave the walk a different energy part-way thru. first id of hoary vervain and golden alexanders!


mullein blooming

rough and heavy

to the touch


prairie valley sings

with yellow throat song—

shocks of stalk and sepal


below leaf and stem

under rain and sky

bedrock glimpses prairie

sna poems #84: faville prairie

one of the largest low prairie remnants in wisconsin, faville prairie was once a part of the 2,500-acre crawfish prairie. shifted hydrology in the area has led to drier conditions in part with more woody species, and a wetter sedge area.

this was one of the sites whose preservation aldo leopold fought for, and it became a sna in 1952. it was a terrific stop, with several first-time id’s of forbs for me. thanks to the uw-madison arboretum for allowing me to walk this land, as visits are restricted.


deer break/

wing blur/

there: spiderwort


a southwind trembles the prairie

swirls of whorled lousewort

and clutches of hoary puccoon


cranes and spotted frogs

phlox and shooting star,

all give a nod to aldo

sna poems #83: waterloo prairie

waterloo prairie is a couple parcels of land along stony brook, one with a fen and many seepages, the other with a larger wet prairie meadow. i visited the latter, moving thru a small wood with wet, boggy patches thru-out to get out into the open.

as was the theme of the day, sandhill crane calls rattled back and forth over the meadow’s expanse.


ruddy partners

calling out

in the wet meadow

from prairie to edge

from edge to wood

wood to boggy patch

boggy patch detail

sna poems #70: young prairie

young prairie is a sizable remnant wet-mesic prairie in the southern kettle moraine area, though it was pretty dry given our general lack of rain the last while in this part of wisconsin.

dthis early, there was little flashy growth to call our attention, but seeing the very beginnings of this year’s prairie grass was a subtle excitement. just the muffled crunch of last year’s vegetation and an open-air walk were enough to make the early trip worthwhile.

this trip also marked our last sna in walworth county!


the birds are building

over strawed thatch

green blades shoot


the cups of lichen children

will forage the strewn bark

living bare to the sun

sna poems #65: snapper prairie

snapper prairie is another remnant prairie that formerly stretched for 2,500 acres in the floodplain of the crawfish river (a tributary of the rock). it floods at times due to the clayey nature of the soil, and there are plants more common to fens present like riddell’s goldenrod, valerian, and an orchid. but of course none of them are out yet.

there’s something very strange about visiting prairies in the middle of winter, when they’re snowfields with desiccated plants poking up out of the white here and there. you know there’s so much life lying hidden and silent beneath that snow just waiting, and the wind blows steadily. it’s difficult to imagine how brilliant the grasses and flowers will look and smell in just a few months. but it’s also good to know this place at a quieter time that is just as much a part of its life cycle(s) as the full bloom of high summer.


this remnant prairie persists

in the crawfish flood-plain

a meadowlark preserves her perch


the tow-headed fringe

encircles desiccated forbs

all waiting for melt


as i sit and rest

two meadowlarks

sing for themselves

state natural area poems #46: swenson wet prairie

swenson wet prairie is now a part of the avon bottoms s.n.a. but it was established as its own site, so i’m counting it. it’s a wet prairie in the floodplain of the sugar river near where the river meets taylor creek. there’s also a sedge meadow and river bottom savanna(!), and a number of oxbows. its frozen state this december is gorgeous.


open water

below swamp oaks

is sheer grace


a blue bird sits

over frozen duckweed—

graceful arcs