Points of Interest:
- Enjoy prairie wildflowers from spring through fall including blooms of both pale purple and yellow coneflowers – unusual for a prairie.
- Hear the rare prairie mole cricket’s call on spring evenings.
- Look for the bubblegum pink-colored variety of the short-winged katydid.
A scenic tallgrass prairie on cherty dry-mesic soils and gently rolling terrain of the Osage Plains region named after Indian paintbrush which grows on the prairie. Beginning in spring a steady progression of blooming wildflowers can be found. Early spring bloomers include yellow star grass, hoary puccoon, and of course, the Indian paintbrush. Early summer blooms include both pale purple and yellow coneflowers and purple prairie clover. Later in summer prairie blazing star, downy sunflower, rattlesnake master, and compass plant bloom. In the late summer and fall look for rough blazing star, azure aster, goldenrods, and downy gentian.
Forty-seven species of planthoppers have been documented on Paint Brush Prairie. Planthoppers are an important food source for grassland birds. Bees are very important pollinators of many prairie plants and a study conducted at Paint Brush Prairie and two other nearby prairie remnants found 132 species of bees. When managing remnant prairies it is important not to hay or burn an entire site at once. By only disturbing a third or a half of a prairie in one year leaves a refuge for important insect species. The prairie mole cricket, a species of conservation concern, is found here. Male prairie mole crickets create a burrow that helps amplify its call. On warm spring nights the males call from sunset on for an hour or two to attract females. Their call can be heard up to a quarter mile and sounds a little like a chirping fire alarm.
Mead’s milkweed, listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, occurs on this prairie but its numbers have dwindled here as Conservation Department staff has monitored the population since the 1980s. It is not clear why the species has declined here. Paint Brush Prairie also supports two other plant species of conservation concern and the rare northern crawfish frog.
While traversing the prairie keep your eye out for the ornate box turtle or the rare bubble-gum pink colored form of the short-winged katydid. You may glimpse or hear the northern bobwhite, Henslow’s sparrow, Bell’s vireo, dickcissel, eastern meadowlark, field sparrow, or eastern kingbird. Winter brings northern harriers to the prairie.