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The core of this preserve is a treeless, wet sedge meadow dominated by several species of sedges, rushes and wetland grasses. It is the finest remaining sedge meadow in the state.
The preserve is actually comprised of a mosaic of distinctive plant communities based on variations in water table levels.
Tall grass wet prairie communities dominated by big bluestem and spiked blazing-star; sedge meadow dominated by twig-rush; shrub swamp dominated by shrubby species of dogwoods and willows; grass meadow dominated by blue-joint grass and northern reed-grass; and swamp forest dominated by pin oak and cottonwood, are all represented.
More than 26 state-listed species of plants occur here including red baneberry, Sartwell's sedge, fringed gentian, Kalm's St. John's-wort, Riddell's goldenrod and grass-leaf arrowhead.
Rare animals sighted at Irwin Prairie include sedge wrens, Bell's vireo, least bittern, golden-winged warbler and the purplish copper butterfly.
The preserve has a handicapped accessible boardwalk which provides access through Irwin Prairie. The boardwalk is a 1 1/4 mile loop trail beginning at the parking lot. This boardwalk does not have kick rails for wheelchairs. We suggest that wheelchair users have assistance when using this trail system.
The best time to visit Irwin Prairie is during July and August to view the summer wildflowers.
The wet prairie plant community in the region has been severely impacted by the draining of wetlands. Even though the prairie grows in a state nature preserve, its future remains uncertain.