Monday, November 8, 2021

How Lawns Might Affect the Perception of Prairies

Many Americans hate lawns, for various reasons. 

Perhaps their belief is based on the notion that lawns are bad for the environment, whether it's because of the chemical runoff inevitably created by their maintenance, the inordinate waste of water to sustain them, or the lack of biodiversity and havens for pollinators. But many other people, perhaps the majority, are either supportive of lawns, or at least apathetic to the social and even legal requirements that homes should maintain a cut clean lawn on their front yards.

I've sometimes wondered whether such viewpoints could be a factor in the way this one segment of society might view prairies. In this case, lawns may have a negative impact because the ideal and perfect lawn in their minds is the complete antithesis of a prairie. Lawns are  basically  human-maintained prairies where all the multitudes of plant and animal species have been stripped away and discarded, leaving behind just a few desirable grasses.

When they see a prairie, this notion of an idealized lawn could (even if subconsciously) blind them to the truth. Instead of seeing the amazing biological diversity contributed by the many forbs and other plants, they see "weeds"; instead of marveling at the animals that make the prairie their home and add to the wonderful complexity of food webs, they see "pests"; and instead of being awed by the tall grasses they see an unmown landscape.

What a tragedy, if this is the case!


  1. This is wonderful. I have been trying to make a native plant "prairie" in a landscape that really wants to be forest in Nova Scotia using a mix of native forbes and mainly Deschampsia and other tussock forming grasses. It is the hardest gardening project I have ever undertaken and I have learned much about how far we have addled our ecologies...I think the introduction of slugs and certain snails to Cape Breton has probably permanently changed the landscape...scratching my head about the options. The sheer influx of "naturalized" (aka invasive species we don't bother to notice) species from 1,200 feet of road is grinding me down. Especially the arrival of more nitrogen are plants that evolved in nutrient thin ecologies supposed to live on their own ground when other plants are altering the soil chemistry?

    1. Oh, kudos to you for attempting this! We need more people to consider setting up such things in their backyards, even if only for the nectar-loving insects.