Prairies and Savannahs

RBG’s nature sanctuaries contain about 37 hectares of meadows, which have crucial flowers, food plants and habitat for pollinators like bees and butterflies, as well as open-area birds and mammals.

arial view of princess point in summer

Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savannah Management at RBG

A visit to Cootes Paradise south side and a walk along the Princess Point Trail (~1km) takes you through rare meadow type, a TALLGRASS PRAIRIE and OAK SAVANNAH habitat. A series of interpretive signs will teach you about the ecology of these habitats and their connection to the location’s aboriginal history. Almost 99% of our region’s prairies and savannahs were lost after European settlement. Today, RBG’s nature sanctuaries contain extremely valuable pockets of remnant oak savannah and tallgrass prairie habitat. These remaining ecosystems are under threat from succession to forest, invasive species and a changing climate.

Prairies and savannahs also house a high diversity of Ontario’s rare and endangered flora and fauna, another of many reasons to maintain and restore the integrity of these ecological communities. Ecological disturbance such as fire is critical to maintain meadow habitats.

Prairie plants have evolved deep root systems to adapt to fire and drought. Without fire, shrubs and trees invade and shade the prairie flowers and grasses, eventually converting the prairie into a completely different ecosystem. To prevent that scenario, we prescribe spring burns that introduce fire in a way that is highly controlled and safe resulting in renewed habitat for rare species.

We have recently acquired 15.6 hectares of land located within our Escarpment Properties south of Berry Tract. The management goal of this property is to create and maintain a meadow ecosystem to provide essential habitat, not only for pollinators, but other species such as nesting birds. Within the meadow, ephemeral ponds (small, temporarily wet depressions) will be constructed to provide amphibian habitat and help slow the flow of water across the landscape.

At Cootes Paradise North Shore we are working with Hydro One to implement a new management strategy for the hydro corridors crossing the property with the goal to actively maintain them as meadows. The active clearing of the meadows during corridor maintenance represents the disturbance, and the corridors are 19.5 hectares of potential meadows for species like the Monarch. The Monarch Butterfly, a declining species at risk, needs meadow habitat not only for their flowers – which let them “fuel-up” for migration – but for the Milkweed plants the caterpillars depend on for food. Interested in Monarch migration, see how far they’ve come this year, or contribute your own sightings to Journey North!


meadow on fire

Controlled Burning

This is intended to be the fifth operational controlled burn for Princess Point. The goal of Royal Botanical Gardens’ controlled burn is a means to protect and renew the threatened tallgrass prairie and savannah ecosystems at Princess Point by promoting natural regeneration of oak and tallgrass species and controlling invasive species. Prairie and savannah ecosystems once covered 36 square kilometers of the Hamilton region, today, there is only 30 square kilometers left in all of Ontario and many of Ontario’s endangered plant species are restricted to these habitats. Several interpretive signs on this theme are found on site.


Resources

Fire SafetyPrescribed Burn Program2019 Status Report on Princess Point
Island in Cootes ParadiseIsland in Cootes Paradise

Support Conservation at RBG

These conservation projects are possible thanks to the generous support of RBG Members and donors. With a donation to Growing up Green, you can ensure an active, vibrant and healthy future for the children of today and tomorrow through our horticultural and conservation projects.

Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is the largest botanical garden in Canada, a National Historic Site, and registered charitable organization with a mandate to bring together people, plants and nature.


Experience the Nature Sanctuaries

There are lots of ways to get in touch with nature in a manner that is respectful to the species who call them home! Join us for a hike, a paddle, or see what's turning up in the fishway!

blue bird on a branch

Birding

Royal Botanical Gardens provides easy access to some of the most diverse birding in Ontario.

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RBG ecologist holding out net with fish to visitors

Paddle

See the marsh and its inhabitants from a new perspective as your guide leads you from one shore of Cootes Paradise to another.

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RBG ecologist holding out net with fish to visitors

Fishway

Located at the mouth of the Desjardins Canal, RBG's Fishway is protecting native species and their wetland habitats.

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