Prairie flora abounds in tiny half-acre Bigelow Cemetery. Here, the massive leaves of Prairie-dock are set off by Purple Coneflower and Gray-headed Coneflower. Bigelow seems inordinately lush with flowering prairie forbs, and Gary Meszaros, my collaborator on the new book, has a theory which explains this. Prairie pioneers, as no florists were available in those days, gathered brightly colored flowers from the prairie and planted them around the headstones. They persist in abundance to this day.
At this time of year, butterflies abound, seeking the nectar of late summer prairie plants. This Eastern Tailed Blue is working a Gray-headed Coneflower. I saw many other species in my short visit today.
One of the real prairie stars is Royal Catchfly (Silene regia). This plant is a prairie obligate, not occurring outside of prairie areas, and is now listed as threatened in Ohio. Bigelow is filled with them. Most were done, but a few still stood in good flower.
The modern prairie clashes with beautiful native prairie vegetation of Bigelow Cemetery in the foreground. Beyond lay thousands of acres of soybeans, along with wheat and corn. In 1837 John Deere launched his chisel plow, and rich prairie sod - some of the world's most productive croplands - quickly were converted. That's the fate of nearly all of the 1,500 square miles of prairie that once cloaked Ohio. It's too bad that we didn't have the foresight to set aside large swatches of Bigelows long ago, so Ohioans could enjoy the prairie landscape that was so prominent a part of our history.