All plants crave sunlight. Not just the prairie, but shrubs and trees as well. Once an open area becomes colonized by taller woody species, the advantage goes to the taller species that get first crack at sunlight; disadvantaging the herbaceous plants at ground level, shading them out in the transition from open prairie to closed woodland.
Fire is the great equalizer – the force that keeps the prairie open as thin-barked woody species, maples, ash, hawthorn and dogwoods are leveled by occasional wildfires that historically swept one thousand miles from west to east. The intensity of a prairie wildflre is hard to imagine, but LBOLA and other natural-areas restoration groups utilize fire as our most economical and essential tool to keep natural areas open.
As you can see around you, sometimes the woody species get ahead of us. Observe that the ground beneath the shaded-out woody areas is nearly devoid of herbaceous vegetation. LBOLA volunteers are working hard to keep up and someday soon, as resources become available, we’ll clear this area so that once again, we can rely on fire to keep the prairie/wetland open and diverse.