Anderson County prairies are only a precious remaining fragment of the millions of acres of tallgrass prairie, which once covered the North American continent. Anderson County is located in the Flint Hills but is in the more easterly portions of this tallgrass prairie region in Kansas. Since the mid-1990’s, The Nature Conservancy has established a presence in Anderson County with the acquisition of the 128-acre Welda Preserve. In 2003 the Kansas Chapter purchased 1,242 acres adjacent to Welda Preserve and acquired another 80 acres in 2011.
What is particularly compelling is that Anderson County contains one of the few known reproducing populations of Mead’s milkweed on Earth. Mead’s milkweed is a small green-flowered milkweed that is a federally threatened plant found in eastern Kansas and in Missouri.
The Mead’s milkweed, associated with rapidly disappearing prairie habitats, was designated a threatened species in 1988. The Conservancy’s role is to prevent further decline of the plant and ensure a distribution of healthy, viable populations. On the ground, stewardship includes protection and management of habitat, identification of new populations or potential habitat for introduction, and research on restoration, management and introduction techniques.
Anderson County Prairies are in Anderson County between the towns of Garnett and Welda in eastern Kansas.
Anderson County’s deeper soils and higher annual rainfall provide unique communities and species more diverse than the more recognized prairies of the Flint Hills. This fertile landscape abounds with healthy populations of native grasses — big bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass — and wildflowers such as purple coneflower, leadplant, prairie clover, black-eyed susan’s, prairie gentian, and spiderwort. These prairies are best known for a portion of the world’s largest population of Mead’s milkweed, a globally threatened plant. Anderson County Prairies is the site of ongoing Mead’s milkweed research by the University of Kansas.
Greater prairie-chicken, crawfish frog, prairie mole cricket, and regal fritillary butterfly. The Henslow’s sparrow, a grassland songbird in sharp decline, and various other grassland nesting birds are also seen in the area.
Native tallgrass prairie provides a habitat for several species of animals and plants, including the globally threatened Mead's milkweed.
Tours and visits of Anderson County Prairie are available only by appointment. Please contact the Kansas Chapter for more information.