Nature News: Perennials vs. annuals

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By Jayda, LHS Junior

The Jones Park Nature Trail at Lyndon has many types of plants, from grasses to wildflowers and of course trees. But today almost the entire United States prairie has been destroyed from the increasing agricultural practices and industry.

To help rebuild some of the prairie that has been lost, the trail will also include an area with native grasses. Also, by adding the native grass and plant area, people will be able to enjoy nature and the school will be able to use it for educational purposes. In order to reintroduce the native grasses and plants, the part of the trail reserved for a prairie landscape needs to have more perennial plants, which must compete with the annuals for spots in the soil.

A perennial plant is one that comes back year after year. The top part of the plant dies every winter and grows back every spring while keeping the same root system. Perennials can live three years or longer. An annual plant goes through its whole life cycle in one season.  Therefore, the plant and root system die every year. Although annuals die every year, some reseed. This means before dying, seeds are released and then become buried in the soil and wait to come up the next season.

To turn the designated area into a prairie, perennials must be dominant in the area. Since some annuals reseed before dying, perennials often do not get a chance to form strong root systems and grow. For this reason, the soil in the area where the natural prairie landscape will be must be disturbed, so the perennials can expand and get a place in the soil to grow bigger. If the soil is not disturbed, the annuals will take all of the room and no perennials will be able to grow or start root systems.

Along with growing bigger, more species will have room to grow and some new species of prairie perennials may even begin to grow. If the soil near or underneath the annuals that reseed is not disturbed, the annual plants will keep growing in that area, but the perennials that are desired will not be able to. Disturbing the soil is considered beneficial because after soil has been disturbed, it never goes back to the way it originally was. Because of this, both the nutrients and roots systems that annual plants need will not be there for the plants to use.

Prairie plants also benefit the wildlife in the area. Many of the plants are edible, providing a food source for a diverse group of animals and insects. Some plants also provide hiding places and shelters for animals.

By encouraging annual and perennial competition, this small part of the trail will be able to look and function close to prairie land. Recreating this small portion of prairie land is just another small step in restoring the prairie that has been lost through agriculture and industrialization.


Nature News is a project of the Lyndon High School English III class taught by Heather Fuller, who teaches English, drama and forensics. Along with the study of the works of famous authors, the junior students are learning about community-based writing. Coursework includes writing about subjects that will benefit readers. In Nature News, they plan to report on topics about appreciation of nature, using nearby Jones Park Trail as a learning tool.

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