Virginia bluebells at Kokiwanee by Jarrid Spicer. Members are invited see what’s blooming on a walk through Kokiwanee, 2 pm, Sunday, April 30 with Dr. Dave Hicks who inventories the wildflowers of this much-loved place. See our events page for details.
Land can produce a seemingly unlimited diversity of plants. Consider a small garden plot. On the same piece of land, sweet corn, green beans, tomatoes, turnips, peppers, radishes, eggplant, and a host of other vegetables or flowers can be grown. Whatever the gardener’s whims, the land accommodates.
What seems to me even more amazing is what happens when human whims don’t control the land, when people allow nature to decide what grows where. Compared to nature, humans tend to be unimaginative. When we control what grows on land, we often plant one or only a handful of species. By comparison, 300 – 500 different plants commonly thrive in an ACRES nature preserve. Nor does Nature share our desire for uniform design. We tend to grow our plants evenly spaced and in orderly rows. Nature fills our preserves with intermingled plants that appear to be randomly spaced.
When a patch of land is allowed to exist as a nature preserve, natural — not human —processes and conditions select vegetation type (forest, wetland, grassland) and individual species. Boundaries are fluid. Species are interspersed and vary greatly in abundance. The system is also dynamic: as light or water levels change over time, plant communities move.
Nature preserves provide places where nature calls the shots. Of course, people still play a role. We make a choice by preserving land, but within the nature preserve, our choice is largely to remove human choice. In our preserves, we choose not to choose. Our primary choice is to let life unfold largely undisturbed — naturally.
I’m glad land is so versatile. I enjoy its products daily — food, lumber, places to live, commute, and work on. I’m also glad that among these other land uses, ACRES exists to provide places where land can simply be what it wants to be. To many, nature preserves represent “what was” or “what should be” — what the land was meant to produce.
Thank you for giving land the ability to determine its own best use. Human restraint can produce unexpected and rewarding results.
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P.S. I explore this concept further in my post, Kokiwanee, 1941 farmland to nature preserve, through the example of how Kokiwanee went from an agricultural field in the 1940s to today’s preserve with over 450 documented plant species.