Plant a Pocket of Prairie

Plant a Pocket of Prairie, written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Betsy Bowen, is set for an April release.

This is the second book by the duo, the first being the Big Belching Bog.

Plant a Pocket of Prairie takes children on a visit to one of today’s most endangered ecosystems, the prairie.

I recently had a chance to talk to author Phyllis Root about her new book:

What prompted you to write Pocket of PrairieIs the disappearance of prairie wildlife a topic that is close to your heart? Do you have a bit of prairie at your house?

Phyllis: Plant a Pocket of Prairie seemed like a natural follow-up to Big Belching Bog. I love visiting Scientific and Natural Areas in the spring, summer, and fall to discover the native plants that grow there.

Because almost the entire prairie in Minnesota was plowed up and farmed, there really are only pockets left—less than one tenth of one per cent of the original prairie.

We really can’t bring that original prairie back because it was gone even before anyone understood all the dynamics of a prairie. I also read Doug Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home, in which he shows the connection between native plants, native insects, and native birds and the consequences of losing our native plants.

I wanted children to know about the prairie, what an amazing ecosystem it is, how at risk it is, and how even a small pocket of prairie plants can help native insects and birds and other animals. Almost all the grass in my city yard has been turned into prairie or vegetable garden, and now plants grow up that I didn’t plant, whether brought there by birds or simply from seeds waiting in the soil.

I feel passionately that we must preserve what we have left of prairie and make every effort to restore as much as we can. Aldo Leopold’s first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. We need to save the parts we have left, even if we can never recreate the whole.

If a child were to grow just one of the many plants you mention in your book, which one would you suggest?

Phyllis: Which plant would I recommend a child grow?

That depends on where the plant will grow and how much sun it will get. If the plant is in a flowerpot or box, I might suggest coreopsis or coneflower or aster.

If there’s room for a plant in the ground, I might suggest native sunflowers, since they provide so much satisfaction, beauty, and seeds for wildlife to eat, or Monarda (also known as bee balm) or butterfly weed, which monarchs love.

But the whole nature of a prairie is that everything in the prairie is related to everything else, so once someone plants one plant or flower, I say plant another, and another, and another. Paul Gruchow wrote, “The prairie teaches us that our strength is in our neighbors.”

There’s more. You can read the full interview at Little-Book-Worms.

Are you looking forward to the release of  Plant a Pocket of Prairie?

How do you encourage your child to take care of the environment?

Leave your comments below!