Tallgrass Prairie Center


Botany Beginners - Managing Prairie Strips

Botany Beginners - Managing Prairie Strips


Welcome to Botany Beginners 2022 — Managing Prairie Strips



What you will need


  • The course textbook, Newcomb's Wildflower Guide (1989), by Lawrence Newcomb and Gordon Morrison. It can be purchased from Little, Brown and Company
  • Your favorite weed identification guide. We assume some familiarity with common agricultural weeds
  • At least one site to practice plant ID, such as a prairie strip, other CRP, or planted roadside
  • Proper PPE for common hazards such as dehydration, sunburn, ticks, mosquitos, wild parsnip
  • An inexpensive 7x -10x pocket magnifying lens (recommended)


About this course


This course is designed for certified crop consultants, conservation professionals, farm managers, farmers, and landowners. It should be helpful to anyone involved in planting or managing CRP acreage that uses native prairie plants, such as the Prairie Strips practice (CP-43). Plant ID skills are essential to monitor establishment success and recognize troublesome invaders before they become too numerous to combat. Timely evaluation will simplify management decisions and improve the overall performance of these conservation practices. 


You will learn how to


  • Observe, photograph and name important characteristics to help with plant identification 
  • Recognize the most common planted species in CRP fields 
  • Make use of plant ID guides, online resources, and advanced tools 
  • Identify the more common plants before they flower 
  • Evaluate a prairie stand at year 1 and year 3, identify management issues and suggest remedies 
  • Narrow down the range of possible grasses, and make a plausible ID
  • Recognize the potential for a prairie remnant worthy of protection 


Course elements


  1. Five, 1-hour webinars on Zoom, Tuesdays from June 21 – July 19.  Lecture, with breaks for questions
  2. All lectures will be recorded, closed-captioned, and archived within 1-2 weeks. We strongly recommend that students view these recordings from late June through late July, during the growing season. In designing this course, we assume that students will develop their plant ID skills in between lectures, making frequent reference to living plants in their surroundings
  3. One, in-person field day, Roadman Farm, Grundy County. Several in-field and edge-of-field prairie strips of different ages, and a field experiment comparing dormant and spring planting of two seed mixes.
  4. Informal homework - We will encourage practice between lectures by suggesting homework activities to reinforce what you are learning 


Lecture topics


Live on Tuesdays from noon to 1pm, and posted to our YouTube page by 7pm the same day.

June 21 —   Plant ID fundamentals 1: Basic terminology. How to take plant photos for later ID. Plants of the Day: two to four most common CRP forbs 

June 28  —  Plant ID fundamentals 2:. How to use Newcomb’s Guide, three top plant families, and more common CRP forbs 

July 05  —  Identifying plants in establishing prairie strips: Finding native plants among the weeds. Common weedy look-a-likes

July 12  —  Plants of mature prairie strips: Troubleshooting ID 

July 19  —  Site assessment and seedling ID: Common look-a-likes. Management considerations. Other topics TBD according to student feedback 

July 22  —  In-person field day: 10:00am to 12:00 p.m., Roadman Roadside Park, Grundy County. Practice assessment of different-aged stands and management considerations.



The Tallgrass Prairie Center wishes to acknowledge the partnership of Iowa State University STRIPS program.


Iowa State University STRIPS program logo


Past Botany Beginners courses in this series were supported by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Green Iowa AmeriCorps - Land and Water Stewards Program, the University of Northern Iowa College of Humanities, Arts and Science, and the Friends of the Tallgrass Prairie Center. 

And, a special thanks to the financial support of the Friends of the Tallgrass Prairie Center. If you would like to support Botany Beginners courses, click here to access this secure online giving form through the UNI Foundation, and select "Tallgrass Prairie Center." 

You may also mail a check payable to the UNI Foundation, Attn: Friends of the Tallgrass Prairie Center, and addressed to UNI Foundation, 121 Commons, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0239.