Photo by Josh Meyer
Fair Meadows features several natural communities, including oak woodland/savanna, wet prairie, sedge meadow, shrub-carr, open marsh and spring complex. Of note is the presence of a federally threatened, state-endangered plant that was once common in moist prairies across the Midwest but is now rare due to habitat loss. The plant has increased greatly at Fair Meadows after management. The open marsh regularly has a breeding colony of a state-endangered bird. Several other plants and animals that are state-threatened or species of special concern are found here. The oak woodland/savanna is dominated by white oak and shagbark hickory, with black cherry and hackberry.
Management of the woodland includes invasive species control, woody species removal, prescribed burning and interseeding with native understory species to restore a declining natural community type. Uplands are surrounded by a large wetland basin that includes several small peaty areas with local marl deposits around several springs. Common plants include marsh marigold, skunk cabbage, great angelica, stiff cowbane and fen willow-herb. Also present is a sedge meadow dominated by tussock sedge and blue-joint grass with spotted Joe-Pye-weed, boneset, shiny-leaved aster, Riddell’s goldenrod and sedges.
Other wetland communities include shrub-carr dominated by red-osier dogwood and willow and deep-water marsh composed of dense stands of emergent aquatics such as giant bur-reed, hard-stem bulrush, swamp loosestrife and cattails. Soft-stem bulrush, sweet-flag and southern blue flag iris are also locally abundant. More than 192 species of birds have been documented at the site. Wetland management includes invasive and woody species removal and prescribed burning. Mesic prairie has been restored in former agricultural fields and apple orchards. Fair Meadows is owned by The Madison Audubon Society and was designated a State Natural Area in 2005.
Rock County. T4N-R13E, Sections 3, 4. 376 acres.
The natural area is open to the public during field days and for educational tours.
Fair Meadows is owned by The Madison Audubon Society