This complex of native prairie types was created on land disturbed during construction of the adjacent Interstate. It has a wonderful diversity grasses and forbs, of varying soil moistures.
The Brother Don Geiger Prairie at Mount Saint John
Mount St. John, 4435 East Patterson Road, Beavercreek, Greene County, Ohio
Marianist Environmental Education Center (MEEC)
In 1985 a 14-acre portion of Mt. St. John bordering I-675, property of the Marianists (Society of Mary), was mined for sand and gravel for use in constructing the interstate highway.
Mining the glacial till of the esker continued until the excavation reached the water table, where it formed a pond. The borrow-pit was graded and contoured. Multiple substrates were present, including glacial till with a wide range of moisture contents: water-saturated sand, and two patches of un-mined agricultural soil at the perimeter.
The varied substrates provided potential to create a number of habitats including a sand spit, a fen, wet prairie seeps, and dry slopes and clay-rich hill prairie niches. In mid April of 1986 the site was uniformly hydro-seeded with 8 species of prairie grass. Due to the 8.2 pH glacial till with its very low fertility, the grasses established more slowly than usual and resulted in a nearly weed-free prairie. After 5 years the patchy, slow growing prairie grasses were mature and dense enough to carry fire for the first prescribed burn that took place in the spring of 1992. Ongoing management includes nearly annual burning of about a third of the prairie, spot management of invasive species, and continued inter-planting of forbs.
The prairie is a centerpiece for MEEC, providing space for environmental learning and reflection. Volunteer teams steward the land, develop programs and build community. Activities include seed collection, plant propagation, prairie burns, biological surveys, various management projects and educational programs. In 1988 Mount St. John Nature Preserve was recognized as an Ohio Natural Landmark by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The prairie covers about 14 acres.
The 27-year-old prairie has matured noticeably during the past several years. The prairie grasses form a range of distinct microhabitats based on slope, moisture, and substrate difference. The result is a prairie that features stands of Indiangrass, big bluestem, little bluestem ,and patches of side-oats grama grass. In addition, there has been a considerable increase in diversity of prairie forbs that are establishing throughout the prairie. The fen provides an annual show of fringed gentian which appeared mysteriously about 6 years ago. Presently there are some 25 clusters in the fen along with populations of swamp thistle, queen-of-the-prairie and a variety of other fen plants. The pond is surrounded by emergent vegetation, sedges, rushes, bulrushes and shrubs such as buttonbush and swamp rose.
Contact the Marianist Environmental Education Center by visiting the home page at meec.udayton.edu or at 937 429 3582.
The MEEC site is open to visitors daily during daylight hours. Parking is available in the lot next to St. Joseph Hall. Consult the map on the home page for a guide to visiting the prairie, the plant propagation nursery, the Sacred Embrace artistic garden and a prairie flower labyrinth.