Marilyn Bland Prairie
at Matthaei Botanical Gardens
Survey records from the early 1800s indicate that before Euro-American settlement, an oak savanna (a grassland with scattered oaks) occupied this area. In 1967, U-M graduate student Marilyn Bland established this as a demonstration prairie to provide “researchers and students an outdoor ecological laboratory for grasslands investigation, and the public a small living museum of the region’s native plants.” It is believed that this was the first attempt to create a teaching prairie in Michigan.
Today the Marilyn Bland prairie is a combination of the original plantings from 1967 as well as additional native prairie species that have emerged, or moved in on their own. Together they create a sense of the presettlement landscape and its rich species diversity. This landscape and diversity requires ecologically appropriate management with controlled burns. Spring and late fall are the burn season, so you may detect evidence of past fires. The prairie comes to life dramatically as the spring warms into summer, with peak bloom, primarily of grasses and members of the aster family, from July to September.
The Marilyn Bland Prairie is at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens site.