The Portman Preserve is a victory for conservation in southwest Michigan. The prairie fens and oak woodlands that grace this 188 acre preserve in eastern Van Buren County have long been known by biologists to support incredible biodiversity. Recently acquired by the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, but not yet open to the public, this is your chance to a get a rare glimpse of this rare gem of the southwestern Michigan landscape. A 2008 survey by trip leader, Tyler Bassett, documented 446 plant species (8 state-listed), including savanna specialists like leadplant, false boneset, and prairie alum root; and prairie fen specialists like marsh blazing star, fringed gentian, and tuberous Indian plantain. The Portman Preserve offers a patchwork of exemplary natural communities - oak savanna and woodland, hardwood swamp, shrub swamp, and prairie fen – that gives a glimpse of how they historically interacted across the landscape. Bring sturdy footwear (hiking boots are fine – we won’t be venturing too far into the sensitive prairie fen), and insect repellent – mosquitoes may be bad.
Tyler Bassett has a deep love of the plants and plant communities of southwest Michigan. He earned a B.S. in Biology from Western Michigan University in 2000, and a PhD in Ecology from Michigan State University in 2017. In between, he cultivated his skills as a botanist and ecologist, informing conservation and management of natural habitats through work with the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, and ecological restoration firm, Native Connections. He is currently a research associate at Michigan State University, studying the conservation and restoration of native plant communities, particularly prairies and oak savannas.