Tag Archives: Sylvan Runkel State Preserve

Learning About the Loess Hills in Siouxland, Sylvan Runkel State Preserve, rural Monona County

3 Jul

Hikers head out from a group that Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads in the background where he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie, the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently there was an annual Loess Hills Prairie Seminar held in SIouxland in rural Monona County at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve. Runkel was an author of a few books about midwestern wildflowers, including those found in the Loess Hills in western Iowa near the Nebraska border with the Missouri River. I had never previously walked the trail to this particular preserve although I had driven past it numerous times and had seen a sign for it. But I think it rivals the Loess Hills State Park Overlook near the state forest a little further south. And evidently it is a birder’s paradise when it comes to finding those feathered friends.

Dr. Tom Rosburg, center back, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This hike was lead by a professor from Drake University, Dr. Tom Rosburg, an expert in the native plants that exist in the Loess Hills, who did his Ph.D thesis about the plants native to the area. But I will admit, my feeble brain had a hard time keeping up with the scientific and horticultural names for these plants, although I had seen a number of them on hikes through various places in the Loess Hills which I previously had hiked. Rosburg has also written a few books about plant life. This area had recently had a fire prevention and restorative burn done to it so the plants were not at a stage the professor seemed to have liked for examining and talking about the various species and how to recognize them. But he and many in the entourage recognized a great deal of them. Some of those I believe were also students who were taking copious notes and were learning from the best.

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, right, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Remains of a recent fire burn appears Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I did find it fascinating and somewhat exhausting that every few steps taken a native Loess Hills plant was found and the group would stop as Dr. Rosburg explained the species, some of which are only found in this location, while others are spread throughout the Loess Hills. This all has to do with the plants’ own evolution and the kind of soil located within this particular state preserve. He explained that when doing his thesis he plotted out thousands of small areas and tracked the progress of the plants within each plot to better understand conditions and the strengths and weaknesses of each. Quite an undertaking.

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But as a visual person, I was more interested in the landscape and what I was seeing and what I thought would offer some excellent sunset and possibly fall foliage later this year more intriguing. So I drifted away from the group which then gave me a “mass” for scale to incorporate into the landscape of this particular state preserve. A colorful sky with some clouds some evening will offer up some impressive imagery I believe. Now it’s trying to figure out which of those evenings that will happen.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads a group as he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads a group as he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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