History of the Illinois Prairie

Date: Monday, October 11th, 2021 Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Location: Mennonite Church of Normal (map and directions)

Illinois is called the Prairie State because it originally had 22 million acres of prairie, but only 2,400 acres of high quality remain today. The first non-native settlers were from forested areas and thought the prairies were not suitable for agriculture. Nevertheless, they slowly encroached onto the prairies and found that the black prairie soil could grow good crops. However, they had difficulty ploughing the tough prairie sod and the soil stuck to their plows. In 1837, John Deere developed and manufactured a cast-steel, self-scouring plow. Farmers had high crop yields, but no way to get them to distant markets. However, railroads were developed from 1850-1860 and 3.3 % of the prairie was plowed each year. Tiles were placed in wet prairie that drained the prairies so crops could be grown. We need ecological restoration to restore our degraded remaining prairies.  Learn more about the prairies of Illinois in this presentation.

Presenter Bio:

Dr. Roger Anderson is a plant ecologist and retired from Illinois State University in 2008. He was the Director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum for three years from 1970-1973. One of his manuscripts was published in 1970 entitled “Prairies in the Prairie State” and includes information about Illinois prairies.  He is on the ParkLands Board and has been a member from 1983 to the present.  He has been a lifetime member of the ParkLands Board for the past six years.


NOTE: Following the indoor mask mandate for Illinois, face masks are required for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people at this in-person program.  Participants will also be expected to sign a Covid Attestation form upon arrival as required by the National Wild Ones organization. To view the wording of the form please click HERE.


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