Prairie Restoration

Asylum Lake Prairie

History of the preserve's mesic prairie reconstruction project

A prairie is an ecosystem that is defined by an abundance of grasses such as big bluestem, indian grass and switchgrass, as well as many types of wildflowers. A mesic prairie is a prairie that contains a moderate amount of moisture in the soil. In the past, mesic prairies were prevalent in Southwest Michigan, including Kalamazoo.

Prescribed burn

Fire played an important role in the development and maintenance of mesic prairies, and Western Michigan University's Natural Areas Program uses controlled fires to help keep the Asylum Lake Preserve healthy. In addition, the program has been dedicated to restoring Asylum Lake's native species of plants.

Prescribed burns at Asylum Lake


In 2001, approximately 68 acres of former cornfield and Eurasian meadow were prepared and planted with a seed mix that contained 22 native grasses, forbs and legumes. To simulate a pre-settlement oak savanna, 40 bur oaks (Quercus macrocarpa) and 2 shagbark hickories (Carya ovata) were rescued from construction sites and transplanted in parts of the prairie. Below is a list and of the plants included in the seed mix:


  • Big Bluestem (Andropogan gerardii)
  • Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
  • Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium, Andropogan scoparius)
  • Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)

Forbs and legumes

  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
  • Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Canada Milk Vetch (Astragalus canadensis)
  • Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
  • Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriacus)
  • Dotted Mint (Monarda punctata)
  • Heart-leaved Golden Alexanders (Zizia aptera)
  • Lance-leaved Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
  • Lupine (Lupinus perennis)
  • New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
  • Ox-eye Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
  • Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)
  • Rough Blazingstar (Liatris aspera)
  • Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida)
  • White Prairie Clover (Dalea candida)
  • Western Sunflower (Helianthus occidentalis)
  • White False Indigo (Baptisia lactaea)