Preserved vegetation scant, but all the more meaningful

Diane Gibson
Galva News gardening columnist Diane Gibson takes a look at day trips in this week's column.

My neighbors, Clarence and Marie Medley, had encouraged me to visit Munson Cemetery during the annual “Wildflower Walk.”

The Medleys are members of NAGS (Natural Area Guardians), which is a subcommittee of the Henry County Soil and Water Conservation District (a state agency).

I had procrastinated because seeing several acres of grass growing (granted it is prairie grass) just didn’t sound all that exciting. I was wrong - BIG WRONG!

The cemetery is owned by Munson Township, Henry County, Ill. In 1983, the cemetery was designated an Illinois Nature Preserve, a program administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. NAGS maintains this cemetery and I applaud their excellent work.

The IDNR program sets aside land that retains characteristics that would have been there before European contact.

Throughout the upper two-thirds of Illinois, there are at least 24 pioneer cemeteries like Munson where microcosms of the original prairie are preserved - only 16 are part of the preservation program. Do you realize how small a number that is and how fortunate we are to have this in our area?

Prior to European pioneers, the Grand Prairie covered roughly 25 million acres. Today only 2,500 acres remain in Illinois. The set-aside cemetery prairies account for only about 50 acres. Munson Cemetery is but five of those acres.

These plots of land have never been cultivated or grazed. If you visit this cemetery, you will be gazing at a micro-scene of what your ancestors experienced.

For more of Diane Gibson's column, see the June 4 Galva News.