Wet Meadows

Slough Sedge

Slough sedge and other sedges and grasses make up a large part of the plant community in the wet meadows as pictured here.

Wet meadows occur primarily in the valley on the western edge of Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge and along margins of the wetlands. They are categorized as wet meadows due to the presence of ground water near the surface. Even during drought, the groundwater provides plenty of water for lush plant growth. These wet meadows contain a variety of native forbs, grasses and sedges. The meadows are a glow in late summer with Maximillian and Nuttal's sunflowers, swamp milkweed, joe pye weed, and goldenrods. A wide variety of native grass grows here as well, including prairie cordgrass, Canada bluejoint, and big bluestem. An abundance of sedges can be found in the wettest sites, including Nebraska sedge, slough sedge, aquatic sedge, and bottlebrush sedge. Several species of willows and indigobush also grow here, adding fire tolerant shrubs to the landscape.

Wet meadows are managed to maintain the diverse native plant community that exists primarily through grazing and weed control. Grazing in the spring helps to stress non-native grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and smooth brome grass that tend to establish and invade during long periods when no active management occurs. When the cattle are removed, the area regrows and most visitors will not even realize the site had been grazed that year. The grazing also helps with weed control by improving the effectiveness of application. Canada thistle and leafy spurge are the primary concerns.

These wet meadows provide important habitat for many grassland nesting birds, including northern harriers, short eared owls, bobolinks, dicksissels, sharp tailed grouse, and long billed curlews. The sunflower seeds that grow in abundance provide food for thousands of migrating and wintering American tree, Lincoln's, and white-throated sparrows. Hundreds of white-tailed and mule deer winter in the wet meadows along with concentrations of northern harriers and short eared owls.