Staffanson Prairie lies on the western flank of the Alexandria moraine, a region of rolling hills and countless lakes that arcs from Willmar north past Detroit Lakes. Near the center of the preserve is a "prairie pothole", which is a type of wetland created by glacial action thousands of years ago.
Dominant grasses in the dry prairie include side-oats grama and porcupine grass. Dominants in the wet prairie include prairie cord-grass and blue-joint. Big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, and prairie dropseed are common throughout the prairie. Thickets that are dominated by scattered aspen trees also provide shelter to invasive buckthorn, honeysuckle, and Siberian elm.
The regal fritillary, a species of special concern, also inhabits Staffanson Prairie. The preserve originally supported the poweshiek skipper, a now federally endangered species, but it has not been documented here in recent years. The pothole, a typical example of the prairie wetlands that produce most of North America's waterfowl, supports breeding mallards and blue-winged teal.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Nature Conservancy acquired 80 acres in 1972 from the Staffanson family, who had owned the land since 1930. The southern and eastern edges of the property had been cultivated with flax and grains, and the prairie was hayed annually until 1980. Since acquisition, The Nature Conservancy has conducted prescribed burns to maintain the prairie and a variety of management techniques have been used to control invasive and exotic species threatening the diversity of the prairie.