2007 Symphony in the Flint Hills

Again this year, KNPS volunteers played a major role in the educational activities offered to the 5,000 visitors at the Second Annual Symphony in the Flint Hills, held Saturday, June 16, 2007, on private pasture-land in Wabaunsee County. On the nearly perfect June afternoon, as the attendees walked the almost-a-mile trail from the parking lot to the main site, they were greeted at stations along the way by knowledgeable KNPS guides. The guides answered their questions about the plants growing along the trail and pointed out, and provided information about, the dominant prairie plants the guests were seeing. Some of the most common plants were spider milkweed, leadplant, iron weed, green milkweed, prairie coneflower, blue false indigo, and the always popular butterfly milkweed.

This was just the beginning. A constant stream of visitors followed the signs to the KNPS Prairie Walk Headquarters to be assigned to a KNPS guide, who led them on 30-minute and 60- minute rambles to explore the area and learn about the blooming plants, grasses, rocks, prairie springs and insects. Through-out the afternoon, the view from the Headquarters Tent was always the same-clumps of people clustered around their guide, in an orange Symphony Volunteer vest, intently listening and looking.

The more challenging terrain of the hikes in and near a ravine gave those participating an opportunity to see some of the woody plants (rough-leaved dogwood, fragrant sumac, prairie wild rose) and water-loving plants such as water cress, spiderwort, wild licorice. Special plant treats in this area were the Venus'-looking-glasses (both slimpod and clasping) and a single regal Atlantic wild indigo. The list of plants from all sites totaled 77 species.

In addition to encounters with native plants on the trail and walks, many visitors also stopped by the KNPS educational booth, where they were attracted to the outstanding display of pictures of colorful blooms and a variety of Kansas prairie grasses. The KNPS wildflower posters, available in the booth, stimulated conversations about the individual plants from across the state. Another highlight for symphony guests, who filled the seats of the Education Tent, were the lectures by Craig Freeman on Prairie Plants and Wildflowers.

As part of the overall Symphony Event, a wildflower tour was also scheduled for the Mount Mitchell area in Wabaunsee County in the morning. KNPS President Jeff Hansen led a group of plant enthusiasts on this outing, where they found a rich variety of interesting plants such as compass plant, drooping bulrush, porcupine grass, green violet. Wildlife of note included dickcissels, a great plains skink, fritillary butterfly larva, and a woodhouse toad. Jon Vopata taught us about the various rock layers such as cottonwood limestone, and the Sioux quartzite glacial erratics. Visitors also enjoyed learned from Michael Stubbs about the historic trail that crossed Mount Mitchell and the Mitchell farm that was a stop on the underground railroad.

When we put together the numbers from the various face-to-face information-sharing-activities by our KNPS volunteers on June 16, we come up with an impressive 900 visitors who learned at the least a little more about native plants that day. Many will never look at a Kansas prairie the same way again. The 900 number represents 300 guests from the trail stations, 300 from the symphony site walks and 300 combined from the booth, Craig's audiences, and the Mount Mitchell foray.

KNPS volunteers who prepared for the day by making the plant lists, plotting out the walk areas, designing and setting up the booth, scheduling and coordinating the walks and on the day itself shared their knowledge and enthusiasm about the native plants and their prairie home with those who came to the Symphony were: Earl Allen, Annie Baker, Joc Baker, Iralee Barnard, Diane Barker, Krista Dahlinger, Craig Freeman, Jane Freeman, Nancy Goulden, Mike Haddock, Jeff Hansen, Karen Hummel, June Kliesen, Dee Scherich, Phyllis Scherich, and Valerie Wright.