Nisku Native Prairie Park Reserve
by Patsy Cotterill (November 2020)
Nisku Prairie is a 31-acre remnant of aspen parkland protected as municipal reserve, “Nisku Native Prairie Park Reserve,” by Leduc County since 1994. It is located south of Edmonton in Leduc County east of the Nisku Industrial Area and south of Secondary Highway 625. Then local acreage resident Birgit Friedenstab “discovered” the site in 1993 and successfully convinced Leduc County of its ecological significance and need for more formal protection and management.
The landscape consists of aspen groves interspersed with grasslands, and it is this latter plant community, containing patches of plains rough fescue (Festuca hallii) amid a matrix of Kentucky bluegrass and a variety of native grasses and forbs, that is of the most interest. Typical prairie forbs include prairie crocus, three-flowered avens, prairie buttercups, golden bean, bastard toadflax, heart-leaved alexanders, Richardson’s alumroot, veiny meadow-rue, meadow blazingstar, cinquefoils, asters (Symphyotrichum species), goldenrods, and fleabanes. A provincially uncommon grass, Canada ricegrass (Piptatheropsis canadensis) grows in the Prairie. A shrub, narrow-leaved meadowsweet (Spiraea alba), forms patches in the moister spots; its distribution does not extend west of Edmonton. A total of 140 species have been recorded over the years for the site, of which approx. 23 acres have a predominant cover of more or less native vegetation.
The Prairie is managed jointly by Leduc County and the Alberta Native Plant Council under a joint stewardship and management agreement which was renewed in 2016. Leduc County is responsible for the infrastructure, including signs and fences, and will mow and herbicide upon ANPC request if labour and time is available. ANPC is responsible for promoting awareness of the Prairie’s natural history, and for providing volunteers to undertake various stewardship tasks such as weed control. Volunteer work also includes rehabilitation of disturbed areas by removing non-natives and transplanting natives, in many cases grown from seed collected in the Prairie by members of the Edmonton Native Plant Society.
In 2004 Alan Robertson of High Range Consultants conducted a grazing capacity survey, based on an earlier comprehensive soils study by Ed Karpuk, soils specialist, with a view to allowing limited grazing of the site to control aspen and litter build-up. This management technique was never implemented.
We are in constant need of volunteers who enjoy gardening and weed-pulling. The site is a relatively short drive from south Edmonton districts, Beaumont, Nisku and Leduc. Anyone wishing to volunteer at Nisku Prairie should contact Patsy Cotterill at firstname.lastname@example.org
Field trips are held in normal years.
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