Botanist John Goldie rode through the lower Rouge Valley on June 25, 1819. In his diary he wrote:
Although the Rouge was primarily forested in the past, it did contain beautiful areas of meadow wildflowers and even a few remnants of prairie grasslands from a drier climatic period. For example, big bluestem, a tall prairie grass is found in a few dry locations on Hog's Back in the Lower Rouge Valley. Some of these remnant wildflower communities probably owe their persistence to the clearings created by early native farming activities.
Planted in the spring of 2001 by FRW and
Toyota, this Wildflower Plot on top of the
Beare Landfill was coming along nicely by
Two years later, it was an oasis of beauty.
Today, many beautiful native wildflowers are becoming rare because they cannot compete with species introduced from other continents. In addition, there are fewer disturbances such as ground fires to control woody competition and maintain appropriate conditions for prairie wildflower and grass communities.
FRW is taking steps to protect and restore some of the beautiful wildflowers native to the Rouge Park area. Each year, FRW coordinates volunteers to create several new wildflower seed gardens within the Park.
Over the last several years, FRW has planted more than 50,000 native wildflowers of 50 different species in the Rouge Park. Today there are more than 30 wildflower seed gardens on several sites.
The native wildflowers are started in 10-cm pots. They are transplanted by volunteers into a 20-cm deep bed of fine, clean sand surrounded by logs and mulch. The sand provides a weed free, well-drained media that is low in nitrates, factors that give native wildflowers a better chance of out-competing non-native species. Should non-native plants appear, sand offers a further advantage in that it is easy to weed manually.
These wildflower seed gardens produce beautiful summer blooms and nectar for butterflies and bees. They also produce an abundant crop of seed. The seeds can spread to produce native wildflowers in surrounding areas.
To help this natural process along, FRW carefully collects and stores about half of the seed from these gardens for manual spreading on prepared meadow sites the following spring.
In the longer term, FRW hopes that approximately 5% to 10% of the Rouge Park can be maintained in native wildflower communities to provide beauty and diversity in terms of both landscapes and flora and fauna. The hydro and rail corridors that run through the Rouge Park provide good opportunities for maintaining early successional wildflower meadows.