Rare Species at Newaygo Prairie and Karner Blue Sanctuary


August 19 Field Trip Features Rare Species at Newaygo Prairie and Karner Blue Sanctuary 

For our field trip on Saturday, August 19, John Bagley, Regional Stewardship Coordinator for the Michigan Nature Association, will lead us on a hike (along with the River City Chapter of Wild Ones) to the Newaygo Prairie and Karner Blue Sanctuaries, north of Grand Rapids.

Newaygo Prairie is located northeast of Newaygo on the corner of Poplar Ave and 56th street. Over 100 species of prairie plants can be found in the sanctuary, including foxglove, rock spikemoss, fall witch grass, yellow flax, prairie ragwort, American wild plum, and needle grass. Whip-poor-wills in the nearby woods can often be heard singing throughout the prairie in early evening. This dry sand prairie is a remnant of a complex that once spanned over 19,000 acres in Michigan. Only 4% of Michigan’s original sand prairie is left. Native tall grasses and other fire-adapted species thrive here.

Karner Blue Sanctuary is located in Brooks Township northeast of Newaygo. This dry sand prairie is a remnant of a complex that once spanned over 19,000 acres in Michigan. Look for the lupine plants and prickly pear cactus that thrive in these dry conditions. In addition to droughty soils, fire plays an important role in maintaining species diversity and open grassland conditions in this unique habitat. The Karner blue butterfly is a Michigan listed threatened species and a federally listed endangered species. It prefers oak savanna or pine barrens on sandy soil.

John Bagley, Regional Stewardship Organizer for Michigan Nature Association, spent his childhood exploring the woods, farm fields, ponds and creeks around his home in Eaton County. He went on to study anthropology at Western Michigan University, focusing on primatology and the ape-human evolutionary relationship. Bagley worked in the corporate world until the economic downturn, after which he became involved with conservation work in Michigan: surveying for invasive species for the Land Conservancy of West Michigan and serving as a seasonal ecologist for Michigan Natural Features Inventory. John’s connection to MNA goes back to 2008 and includes serving as steward at Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary. Now, as a regional stewardship organizer, John works with volunteers at MNA sanctuaries across the western part of the Lower Peninsula to complete stewardship projects.

The tour will begin at Newaygo Prairie, 5783 Poplar Ave., Newaygo—at the corner of 56th St. and Poplar Ave. Please park along 56th St., east of Poplar. Directions for carpooling will come in the August SEEDLINGS Supplement.