Plum Run Prairie

138 Acres in Adams County

 

Two Distinct Prairie Communities Protected in One Nature Preserve.  Located outside of Peebles, just off of Mendenhall Road, is the Arc of Appalachia’s Plum Run Prairie nature preserve. The preserve is unique in that it protects two distinct but equally rare prairie plant communities: Tall Grass Prairie and Cedar Glade Prairie.  While tall grass prairie communities, which produce deep, rich soils, originated to our west and spread into Ohio during the last ice age, cedar glade prairies are much older and likely originated in the south. Cedar Glades almost always grow on thin, poor soils formed from limestone bedrock, and are found in less than 100 known sites in Ohio. Both are now extremely rare in Ohio, having been decimated by attempts to employ them, usually unsuccessfully, as crop and pasture lands. See the map at the right of the historic range of the tall grass and short grass prairie.

An Exceptional Prairie Worth Saving. Plum Run Prairie is one of the larger prairies remaining in the state, and one of the few such large tracts found in southern Ohio. This is truly an exceptional prairie, the site having been officially listed with the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves as one of the top 40 sites worthy of protection in all of Ohio. At nearly 140 acres, with at least forty acres pristine, and the remaining acres in the farm coming back into prairie even without intentional management, this site has the potential to be among the largest tall grass prairies in Ohio. Read More About Ohio’s Vanishing Prairies.

Endangered Plants in Miniature. Of Plum Run’s eleven state-listed rare and endangered species, three of them are incredibly tiny mustards: the Carolina Whitlow Grass (Draba reptans), Wedgeleaf Whitlow Grass (Draba cuneifolia), and Michaeux’s Gladecress (Leavenworthia uniflora). In early spring each year, these vulnerable plants form tiny rosettes on thin powdery soils that have trouble producing life of any kind. There they produce a few seeds on stems less than an inch high, and then die to begin their cycle anew. They belong to the Brassica family, and are thus related to the cabbage and broccoli of familiar dinner fare. To appreciate them, it is best to explore the trails in late March with a magnifying glass in hand.

A Secure Home for a Rare Butterfly. Dotting the open fields are numerous Allegheny Mound Ant colonies of immense size, often over two feet across and high. These large mounds are a signature landscape feature of the prairie. Allegheny Mound Ants have an extraordinary symbiotic relationship with the Edwards’ Hairstreak butterfly, one of the prairie’s many rare butterfly species. Completely dependent on these ants, the nearly helpless caterpillars are guided up young scrubby oaks trees by the ants where they graze during the day and are then escorted back to the colony beneath the ground at night to protect them from predators. Without having an intact prairie habitat to provide secure homes for the mound-building ant, the rare Edwards’ Hairstreak could possibly perish from the earth.

 

Indian and Bluestem Grasses thrive at Plum Run Prairie

Map of the historical range of the tall grass prairie community in green, and the short grass, cedar glade prairie in yellow. Notice how they overlap at the Plum Run Prairie Preserve.

Indian and Bluestem Grasses thrive at Plum Run Prairie
Hairstreaks get their name from hair-like tails that extend from their hindwings. An "eye spot" of red or blue usually accompanies the tails. This tail is thought to function as a protective device that fools predators into thinking it is the antennae or head of the butterfly. (Source: ODNR website)
The Alleghany mound ant is a native species that can be found along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia, Canada to Georgia. (Source: UK College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment Website)