In mid-May, around 25 people gathered in St. Paul at a small circle of land off Snelling Avenue. The patch is known as the Pierce Butler Meadows, and it’s completely surrounded by busy roads. Most people would consider it useless for anything but keeping the cars apart.
But the group that met on this Saturday afternoon saw something different. For more than three years, they’d been working to restore the median into a piece of prairie populated by bees, birds, frogs, and native plants like golden alexanders, purple prairie clover, dotted blazing star, and little bluestem. Now, after much restoration work, bees and other pollinators flit among the flowers; at a pond on the parcel, frogs chirp, a muskrat swims, and blackbirds call from the cattails.
Today, the volunteers are putting plants in the ground. They were grown in the spring from seeds saved last fall, says Steve Mitrione, a volunteer who’s been the driving force behind the Pierce Butler Meadows project since it was just an overgrown lawn in MnDOT’s mowing schedule. The seeds had been cold stratified—exposed to cold to mimic overwintering—and sprouted by volunteers.