Daughmer Prairie Savannah is the largest and best preserved remnant of the unplowed, deep soil prairies and savannahs that were present at the easternmost extension of America’s prairie heartland. Once covering 192,000 acres in Crawford, Wyandot and Marion Counties, the Sandusky Plains have been reduced to less than 75 acres. Daughmer contains the largest and best preserved remnant, a Bur Oak Savannah.
When French explorers came upon our grasslands, they called them prairies- the French word for “meadows”. They were an amazing sight to explorers, hunters, trappers and soldiers who, after traveling through dense forests of beech, maple, ash and elm, suddenly found open sky and a vast grassland dotted with scattered oaks and hickories.
The 33 acre Daughmer Prairie Savannah was purchased by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in January of 2011 using funds donated by conservation minded tax payers. Those taxpayers earmarked part of their refund to be used for preservation of Ohio’s natural areas. When the Daughmer Savannah came up for public auction in November of 2010, it had never left the White family who had owned it for over 160 years. The Daughmer name honors Hazel White-Daughmer who built her home on a corner of the savannah and prized the special environment that she owned. Factors that contributed to the prairie’s preservation included its agricultural use. It was most often used to graze sheep which inhibited invasion by woody seedlings. Although some of the native forbs were eliminated by the grazing, the overall effect was positive. Another factor that assisted prairie habitat preservation was fire. Whether sparked by lightning strikes or set by native Americans to corral game, the fires helped the prairie plants regenerate and also killed tree saplings. The large Bur Oak Savannah that remains is a special Ohio and Midwest environment.
In addition to the Bur Oak savannah, the preserve also contains other plant communities. This habitat includes mesic prairie, wet prairie, sedge meadow, bluejoint swales and prairie pothole marshes. Stands of big blue stem and little bluestem grasses occupy the dry prairie. Species such as prairie cord grass can be found in the wet areas. Daughmer is home to state listed species including Bicknell’s sedge, wheat sedge and flat-stemmed spike-rush.
Daughmer Prairie Savannah is owned by the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. The Park District maintains a management agreement with them to ensure the use of Daughmer Prairie Savannah as a public State Nature Preserve.