The Sheepberry Fen preserve includes a mix of dry upland prairie and oak savanna and a large groundwater-fed wetland complex called a calcareous fen. Calcareous fens are rare peat wetlands characterized by cold inflowing groundwater containing dissolved calcium and magnesium. This environment creates ecological conditions favorable to supporting certain very rare plants.
Pope County , west central Minnesota
There are four threatened plants found in the preserve: sterile sedge, whorled nut-rush, hair-like beak-rush, and prairie moonwort. Little bluestem, Indian grass and side-oats gamma are the dominate grasses. Porcupine grass and big bluestem are also common. In spring and summer visitors won’t be disappointed when the hills are ablaze with prairie flowers. An array of purple coneflowers, blazing stars and asters bloom among the gamma grasses.
Four occurrences of regal fritillary butterflies (a species of special concern) have been found on the preserve among many other butterflies. Birds, including bobolinks and meadowlarks, nest among the grasses. Northern harriers, with their distinctive white tail markings, hunt from the skies above the preserves.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
In Minnesota , less than once percent remains of the tallgrass prairie that covered most of the western and southern parts of the state before European settlement. Sheepberry Fen represents one of the last relatively large remnants of high quality dry prairie in the region and it includes a rare high-quality calcareous fen.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
Our specific role in this conservation area is to maintain the proper natural disturbances needed to maintain the diversity of the fire-dependent systems, such as dry hill prairies and oak savanna. Another important role for the Conservancy is to ensure that proper land management is conducted along the edges and within the wetlands, especially since calcareous fens are rare peat wetlands.