Tallgrass prairies are the native ecosystem of southeastern South Dakota, yet almost no prairie remains. In addition to having negative effects on prairie plant diversity, the conversion of prairie to the current landscape in South Dakota, which is dominated by monocultures of corn and soybean, has had negative impacts on animals as well including pollinators. Reincorporating prairie plants into our urban and agricultural landscapes can benefit pollinators. Butterfly gardens are one way of utilizing prairie plants to provide food and habitat for pollinators.
We have collaborated with USD Grounds, Spirit Mound Historic Prairie, and local citizens to plant butterfly gardens in the Vermillion area. Sustainability majors have contributed to this work through independent study projects and the Sustainability Capstone (SUST 489) course. The students have grown thousands of prairie plants in the Churchill-Haines greenhouse, designed the butterfly gardens, and planted the plants. Planting butterfly gardens is a great way to participate in community-based learning and to do natural resource conservation in locally.