West Virginia’s tiny prairies are scattered within pockets of forest in the rain shadow east of the Allegheny Mountain and Dolly Sods. Indiangrass, big and little bluestem, sunflowers and other sun-loving plants thrive in the thin, dry soils—if they are not overgrazed by domestic livestock or their habitat isn’t converted to vacation home developments or quarries.
The Conservancy’s stewardship staff continued work this year on an ambitious prairie restoration project that is the first of its kind for the state. The Conservancy is promoting a West Virginia prairie comeback in the Smoke Hole Canyon by cutting competing eastern red cedar and controlling non-native invasive species like knapweed and Japanese stilt grass.
Adding full sunlight and removing competition allows the native grasses, along with state-rare wildflowers like the prairie rocket and crested coralroot, to thrive and spread.