The Importance of Meadows
There are days when I come to the park and I go the long way. The quicker route bypasses a lot of what we have to see in The Parklands. Although the “long way” adds another five minutes or so to my commute, I have realized more and more that it is easily paid back to me in the beauty that resides here, especially in the landscape of our meadows.
A meadow can be described as a field habitat vegetated primarily by grass and other non-woody plants (grassland). These ecosystems seem to be found few and far between amongst the towers of buildings and trees that dominate most of our landscape, and yet they play such a crucial role in the well-being of nature and ourselves.
Meadows grow wherever they can find open, sunny areas outside the view of the larger wooded plant brethren. Here in these outskirts they are able to play their role in the ecosystem by providing crucial needs to the wildlife that call it home. Meadows provide shelter for animals that are unable to seek refuge in trees, such as rabbits and land-dwelling birds. These animals are able to create nests out of the fields and crevasses. Besides offering shelter to land-dwelling animals, wildlife gravitate to meadow areas for courtship and breeding under cover from vigilant predator eyes.
Needless to say, insects also dominate this landscape and have a bountiful quantity of food. In the process of feeding, some of these insects help pollinate the wildflowers that grow amongst the grasses. The successes and failures of these meadows not only affect this habitat and the wildlife inside, but ripple out and affect the entire ecosystem surrounding it.
Having meadows nearby is not just beneficial for those that occupy them, but for ourselves too. The abundance of wild grasses and flowers growing in meadows can improve our quality of life by many different means: Plants that are able to grow fully will work in cleaning the quality of air that we breathe by removing the pollutants through a process called photosynthesis. This not only improves our health but the health of the Earth by reducing our carbon footprint. Getting a chance to be around natural areas such as meadows can also improve a persons’ psyche as well. According to bewell.stanford.edu, many studies suggest activities in natural settings or exposure to natural features have important stress reduction and restoration effects.
Although there are many known benefits to the preservation of meadows, there has been a constant decrease since the First and Second World War in order to create more land for crop production, grazing, and development. Despite this fact, there is an opportunity for everyone to make a difference in the decline of these wonders of nature.
In The Parklands we have focused on removing invasive species and restoring native wildflower meadows throughout the park. Sometimes we get comments that we’ve let the “weeds” take over in our “fields” and near some of our paved trails. In fact, these are important meadow areas and have been carefully managed, not “let go” to grow up in weeds.
Take a page out of the park’s book and consider choosing a plot in your backyard that can be dedicated to the growth of native grasses and wildflowers. There are many resources out there about creating meadows and “rain gardens,” even in more urban areas. You can jazz up these areas by creating a path through the meadow that leads to a fountain, bird bath, or bench. You will also spend less time having to mow these sections of yard, while simultaneously adding natural beauty to your landscape. After your meadow grows in, you will surely have many visitors from different species of birds and insects, such as butterflies. During their stay they will also benefit your garden or flowers through pollination. So, whether you are enjoying the meadows thriving in your park, or growing one at home, take the time to sit back and enjoy the complexity and wonders of this unique, important landscape.
Story by Jared Smith. Jared is one of the quite a few Jareds working at The Parklands. He grew up on the western side of the bluegrass state in Hopkins County in the small town of Manitou situated amongst the trees and fields nearby. Jared found myself here in Louisville after transferring to the University of Louisville, where he received a degree in Elementary Education. Upon graduation he knew that he did not want to pursue a traditional teaching career and instead chose to combine his love of the outdoors with education to teach informally about nature and conservation efforts to help preserve it. He could not be more delighted to have the opportunity to work at The Parklands and pursue that. When Jared is not working he enjoys spending time out exploring, whether that means venturing off for a hike or bike ride.