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Rare animals
Find rare and non-game animals.
Rare plants
Learn about plants on the Natural Heritage Working List.
Rare lichens
Discover Wisconsin's lichens.
Natural communities
Explore Wisconsin's natural communities.
Other features
Discover unique resources.
Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's natural communities, contact:
Ryan O'Connor
Natural Heritage Inventory Assistant Ecologist
608-266-7714

Wet Prairie

State Rank: SU     Global Rank: G3   what are these ranks?

Definition

General natural community overview

Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for Wet Prairie in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database.

This is a rather variable tall grassland community that shares characteristics of prairies, Southern Sedge Meadow, Calcareous Fen and even Emergent Marsh communities. The Wet Prairies' more wetland-like character can mean that sometimes very few obligate prairie species are present. Many of the stands assigned to this type by Curtis are currently classified as Wet-mesic Prairies. In Wet Prairie the dominant graminoids may include Canada bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis), prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata), and marsh wild-timothy (Muhlenbergia glomerata), plus several sedge species including lake sedge (Carex lacustris), water sedge (Carex aquatilis), and narrow-leaved woolly sedge (Carex lasiocarpa). Many of the herbs are shared with the Wet-mesic Prairies, but the following species are often prevalent: New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), swamp thistle (Cirsium muticum), northern bedstraw (Galium boreale), yellow star-grass (Hypoxis hirsuta), cowbane (Oxypolis rigidior), tall meadow-rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum), golden Alexander's (Zizia aurea), and mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum).

Rare animals

Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

The following Species of Greatest Conservation Need are listed according to their level of association with the Wet Prairie natural community type, based on the findings in Wisconsin's 2015 Wildlife Action Plan.

Scores: 3 = significantly associated, 2 = moderately associated, and 1 = minimally associated.

AmphibiansScore
Blanchard's Cricket FrogAcris blanchardi3
Pickerel FrogLithobates palustris3

Ants, wasps, and beesScore
American Bumble BeeBombus pensylvanicus1
Confusing Bumble BeeBombus perplexus1
Rusty-patched Bumble BeeBombus affinis1
Silphium Terminal Gall WaspAntistrophus silphii1
Yellow Bumble BeeBombus fervidus1

Aquatic and terrestrial snailsScore
Six-whorl VertigoVertigo morsei2
Boreal TopZoogenetes harpa1
Transparent Vitrine SnailVitrina angelicae1

BeetlesScore
A Leaf BeetleCryptocephalus venustus3
A Leaf BeetleBassareus mammifer2
A Leaf BeetleAltica litigata2
A Straight-snouted WeevilEutrichapion huron2
A Colaspis Leaf BeetleColaspis suggona1
A Pear-shaped WeevilFallapion bischoffi1
A Pear-shaped WeevilCoelocephalapion decoloratum1

BirdsScore
BobolinkDolichonyx oryzivorus3
American BitternBotaurus lentiginosus2
American WoodcockScolopax minor2
Bell's VireoVireo bellii2
Black-necked StiltHimantopus mexicanus2
Brewer's BlackbirdEuphagus cyanocephalus2
Greater Prairie-ChickenTympanuchus cupido2
Henslow's SparrowAmmodramus henslowii2
Le Conte's SparrowAmmodramus leconteii2
Long-eared OwlAsio otus2
Purple MartinProgne subis2
Short-eared OwlAsio flammeus2
Upland SandpiperBartramia longicauda2
Common NighthawkChordeiles minor1
Eastern MeadowlarkSturnella magna1
Sharp-tailed GrouseTympanuchus phasianellus1
Western MeadowlarkSturnella neglecta1
Yellow-breasted ChatIcteria virens1

Butterflies and mothsScore
A Noctuid MothBagisara gulnare2
Liatris Borer MothPapaipema beeriana2
Silphium Borer MothPapaipema silphii2
Swamp MetalmarkCalephelis muticum2
Gray CopperLycaena dione1
Poweshiek SkipperlingOarisma poweshiek1

CrustaceansScore
Prairie CrayfishProcambarus gracilis2

Grasshoppers and alliesScore
Bog ConeheadNeoconocephalus lyristes2
Delicate Meadow KatydidOrchelimum delicatum2
Grizzly Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus punctulatus1
Spotted-winged GrasshopperOrphulella pelidna1

Leafhoppers and true bugsScore
A LeafhopperDestria crocea3
A LeafhopperFlexamia prairiana2
A LeafhopperLimotettix elegans2
A LeafhopperLimotettix pseudosphagneticus2
A LeafhopperParaphlepsius nebulosus1
A PlanthopperMyndus ovatus1
Piglet BugAphelonema simplex1
Red-tailed Prairie LeafhopperAflexia rubranura1
Yellow Loosestrife LeafhopperErythroneura carbonata1

MammalsScore
Big Brown BatEptesicus fuscus3
Eastern PipistrellePerimyotis subflavus1
Franklin's Ground SquirrelPoliocitellus franklinii1
Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus1

ReptilesScore
Blanding's TurtleEmydoidea blandingii3
Butler's GartersnakeThamnophis butleri3
Eastern MassasaugaSistrurus catenatus3
Plains GartersnakeThamnophis radix3
QueensnakeRegina septemvittata3
Wood TurtleGlyptemys insculpta2
Eastern RibbonsnakeThamnophis sauritus1
Western RibbonsnakeThamnophis proximus1

Please see Section 2. Approach and Methods of the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Rare plants

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

Scores: 3 = "significantly associated," 2 = "moderately associated," and 1 = "minimally associated."
Scientific Name Common Name Score
Agrimonia parviflora Swamp Agrimony 2
Arnoglossum plantagineum Prairie Indian-plantain 3
Cypripedium candidum White Lady's-slipper 3
Eleocharis compressa var. compressa Flat-stemmed Spike-rush 2
Hypericum mutilum Slender St. John's-wort 3
Hypericum sphaerocarpum Round-fruited St. John's Wort 2
Muhlenbergia richardsonis Mat Muhly 3
Platanthera flava var. herbiola Pale Green Orchid 1

Landscapes

The following Ecological Landscapes have the best opportunities to manage for Wet Prairie, based on the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.


Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.


Major (3 on map)
A major opportunity for sustaining the natural community in the Ecological Landscape exists, either because many significant occurrences of the natural community have been recorded in the landscape or major restoration activities are likely to be successful maintaining the community's composition, structure, and ecological function over a longer period of time.

Important (2 on map)
Although the natural community does not occur extensively or commonly in the Ecological Landscape, one to several occurrences do occur and are important in sustaining the community in the state. In some cases, important opportunities may exist because the natural community may be restricted to just one or a few Ecological Landscapes within the state and there may be a lack of opportunities elsewhere.

Present (1 on map)
The natural community occurs in the Ecological Landscape, but better management opportunities appear to exist in other parts of the state.

Threats/Actions

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

What are conservation actions?

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for natural communities

Considerations

The following are additional considerations for Wet Prairie in Ecological Landscapes with opportunities for protection, restoration, and/or management. For more information, see the Wildlife Action Plan.

Central Sand Hills

Good occurrences have been documented at Fountain Creek Prairie State Natural Area (within Grand River Marsh State Wildlife Area, Green Lake County) and Upper Chaffee Creek Meadow State Fishery Area (Marquette County).

Southeast Glacial Plains

Most prairie sites are small and somewhat isolated. Invasives such as reed canary grass, purple loosestrife, and giant reed are significant management problems in some areas. Good opportunities to manage and restore this type occur at some of the larger wet grassland sites in this Ecological Landscape, such as Scuppernong Prairie in the South Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Small remnants also occur embedded within other large grassland management opportunities in this Ecological Landscape, such as Bong State Recreation Area (Kenosha County), Waterloo Prairie State Natural Area (Jefferson and Dodge Counties), and Cherokee Marsh State Natural Area (Dane County).

Southern Lake Michigan Coastal

Increasing population levels due to the proximity of a major metropolitan area have resulted in rapidly expanding urban development. Chiwaukee Prairie is a complex dominated by wet-mesic prairie that also includes wet prairie, mesic prairie, calcareous fen, southern sedge meadow, and oak openings. Coordinated management of Chiwaukee Prairie with Illinois Beach State Park should be explored. Existing prairie remnants should be preserved. Management of stormwater runoff is a major concern in this area, as is maintenance of site hydrology, and continued residential expansion.

Western Coulee and Ridges

Only small, relatively isolated, degraded remnants are known from this Ecological Landscape. Conversion of wet meadow and prairie to marsh has occurred in some constructed impoundments. Reed canary grass is a serious wetland problem in much of this Ecological Landscape. Stands of cordgrass occur in some of the large open wetlands along the Mississippi River.

Photos


Wet Prairie Photos

Wet Prairie Photo

Extensive Wet Prairie dominated by coarse forbs, on rolling outwash sands along the lower Wisconsin River . The Wisconsin River bluffs are in the background. Avoca Prairie - Savanna State Natural Area, Iowa county.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

Wet Prairie Photo

Extensive Wet Prairie dominated by coarse forbs, on rolling outwash sands along the lower Wisconsin River . The Wisconsin River bluffs are in the background. Avoca Prairie - Savanna State Natural Area, Iowa county.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

Note: photos are provided to illustrate various examples of natural community types. A single photograph cannot represent the range of variability inherent in a given community type. Some of these photos explicitly illustrate unusual and distinctive community variants. The community photo galleries are a work in progress that we will expand and improve in the future.

Last revised: Monday, November 14, 2016