Alex Dow Field at Nichols Arboretum

Explore a remnant prairie and savanna ecosystem as well as adjacent oak woods to see Michigan as it was around the time of settlement. Many of the prairie species found here have been eliminated elsewhere in the region. These plants are well adapted to the periodic fires that were part of the ecosystem as well as Native American management practices. Controlled or prescribed fire is currently being used to combat invasive species and encourage native species as part of our work in restoration ecology.


Alex Dow Field in Nichols Arboretum

Early spring is the season of the controlled burns—the prairie needs the summer heat to get into its major growth phase. Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) dominates the prairie and by midsummer it is much taller than any visitor. As summer progresses into fall, common species in bloom include: yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Bicknell’s sedge (Carex bicknellii), showy tick trefoil (Desmodium canadensis), bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), yellow coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), meadow rose (Rosa carolina), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum), early goldenrod (Solidago juncea), stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida), showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides), sky blue aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiensis), smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve), and ironweed (Vernonia missurica).

The prairie supports healthy populations of thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus), meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) and northern short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevidcauda). It also attracts many types of birds and insects.

The Alex Dow Field is at the Nichols Arboretum site.

In July 1943, 36 acres of land were donated to the University of Michigan by Detroit Edison. This addition to Nichols Arboretum was named “Alex Dow Field” as a lasting memorial to Dow, who served as president of Detroit Edison from 1912-1940. Dow helped shape Southeast Michigan’s public utility, Detroit Edison, forerunner of today’s DTE Energy. In memory of Alex Dow, President, Detroit Edison, 1912-1940. Rededicated by DTE Energy, 2010.

If you would like to help support our natural areas please contact Meredith Olson, director of development:; 734.647.7847.