Small controlled prairie fire burns on Troost Avenue

Prairie fires are a natural part of the growing cycle, but it’s rare to see one in an urban setting. Yesterday at the Missouri Department of Conservation Discovery Center at 47th and Troost, foresters set a small controlled fire on an acre of prairie plantings.

It was a small reminder of prairie fires that used to rage for thousands of acres.

The prescribed burn of spent prairie grasses and flowers took less than an hour, casting a plume of smoke through Midtown. It was meant to spur new growth in the Doscovery Center’s prairie planting area.

Prairie plants evolved with fire, and flames used to burn for miles when those plants covered much of Missouri and Kansas.

Fire leaves a nutrients on top of the soil and the blackness in spring helps absorb sunlight, holds in warmth and boosts soil microbial activity, said Bill Graham, conservation department spokesman.

It also destroys invading species while many prairie perennials have deep root systems that are not damaged.

The entire six-acre plant area at the center also includes a butterfly garden and wetland and woodland sections and is open to the public.

“When spring arrives, it starts blooming and goes on until fall,” Graham said. “Every week it changes.”

The prairie plants should start coming up in the burned area in about two to three weeks.

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