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A Reason for the Tallgrass at the Iowa Lab

By Pat Blake, Public Information Officer, State Hygienic Laboratory, Iowa

In the late summer, as our new lab just outside of Iowa City neared completion, we were frequently asked, “Aren’t you going to cut the grass?” Folks would drive by, and notice that the field behind the building and a small strip of grass in the front were not being mowed like the rest of the grounds.

Was this an oversight by the groundskeepers? Were we trying to be “green” by not expending the fuel used in cutting the grass?

Our staff would explain that the land was not unkept space. The high grass is actually the beginnings of a tallgrass prairie being recreated on our site. It was intentionally designed to evolve into a terrain that holds plants native to the area.

Iowa is the only state that is fully contained from border to border in the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The burgeoning landscape is a tribute to our environmental heritage and a representation of our role as stewards for the state.

A few weeks ago as part of the evolutionary process, the tallgrass was cutback to its winter level: a bit taller than most lawns and high enough to maintain the established prairie plants. Today, as the first measurable snow falls on our prairie experiment, we are reminded that something wonderful awaits us next spring and many springs to follow as we look out to the blooming aster and the verbenas that have returned to their native home.

Video Caption: For those who can’t easily drive by and see our Lab on the prairie, take a look at the video about the tallgrass on our new campus. Chemist and tallgrass enthusiast David Larabee-Zierath explains what to expect in the new prairie.

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