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Mark Dauble
Hilltop Garden and Nature Center

Stori Snyder
Hilltop Garden and Nature Center

Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Prescribed burn planned for Indiana University nature center garden

Hilltop Garden tends to prairie garden

March 9, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Hilltop Garden and Nature Center, Indiana University's facility for hands-on education in horticulture and nature studies, is planning a prescribed fire in its prairie garden. The burn will involve around 2,000 square feet at the facility, located at 2301 E. 10th St., and is planned for the week of March 13-17 or when weather conditions are suitable.

Mark Dauble, facility coordinator and horticulturist at the nature center, said the burn is necessary to maintain the prairie plants, including blue stem grass, asters and sedges. Without a burn, the prairie garden would slowly change into a woodland area, as prairies do in nature without periodic burns. Dauble said a Bloomington Fire Department brush fire crew and truck will be on hand at Hilltop Garden to ensure that the burn proceeds safely. The burn might be visible from 10th Street and could last 15-20 minutes.

The native prairie plants in the garden were once commonplace in the open areas of Indiana and Illinois. The garden is a home to blue stem grass, asters, sedges and bluebirds. Forbes, which are neither woody nor grassy, and grasses are tolerant of burning while young woody plants are not. Burning has the added advantage of reducing disease and insect infestations, returning nutrients to the soil and opening space for new growth.

Fire is important in many forest eco-systems as well. Frequent small fires reduce fuels, which prevent larger more destructive fires, and in some cases are required to release the seeds of some species of trees. In nature, the fires are started by lightning. Prescribed burns are planned to be done at the time of year when they will do the most good and the least damage. Weather conditions must be taken into account -- it cannot be windy, and it must be dry enough to burn.

Hilltop Garden and Nature Center provides opportunities for people in the community to learn more about gardening or rent space for their own garden. Hilltop is the home of one of the oldest gardening programs for youth in the country.

For more information about the burn, contact Mark Dauble or Stori Snyder, 812-855-2799 and and, respectively. For more information about the garden, visit