Sierra Club helping restore Spirit Mound

Sierra Club helping restore Spirit Mound On Aug. 25, 1804, Meriwether Lewis encountered previously scientifically unknown plants at the mouth of what is today known as the Vermillion River.

He was the first to describe the Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (Cleome serrulata). The Plains Indians ate the tender shoots and leaves, and used the plants for medicine.

Over the succeeding years, changes in river flows and agriculture largely eliminated the plant from this immediate area. The Spirit Mound Trust will attempt to help bring this and many other presently uncommon native prairie plants home.

A large variety of native flora and their seeds will be planted at Spirit Mound and at the prairie restoration area in Cotton Park. The mouth of the Vermillion was somewhere in the area of the park in 1804.

The Trust hopes to restore Spirit Mound to something resembling what Lewis and Clark may have seen. That prairie was probably rich in native species.

A committee of the National Research Council recently indicated that low native species diversity is an important indicator of human impacts on an environment. The Spirit Mound of 1804 probably was highly diverse in fauna and flora.

The Sierra Club hopes to promote the restoration of species diverse, "authentic" prairies and decided to help the Trust by donating $2,000 to the restoration effort.

The area's native tallgrass prairie was an incredibly diverse, rich ecosystem. There were hundreds of different plant species growing on Spirit Mound when Lewis and Clark visited it in 1804.

Because of budget constraints and seed scarcity, the reconstruction of the Spirit Mound Historic Prairie initially can involve only a limited number of different species. Last fall the park's staff planted seed mixes that included between 28 and 36 varieties.

After the initial prairie reconstruction is completed in time for the bicentennial in 2004-06, the Spirit Mound Trust, Sierra Club and other interested organizations and individuals will continue to find resources and work with the state park staff to increase species diversity on the site.

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