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Ona’s Prairie

Pictured: Liatris. 

Ona’s Prairie, located in Southwest Pettis County, MO, is a 40-acre tallgrass prairie supporting a diversity of plant and animal species. Positioned within a Conservation Opportunity Area, Ona’s Prairie is a living representative of a pre-settlement landscape in North America.

This natural community was given to Powell Gardens for education and research in late 2019 due to a bequest from Ona Gieschen, a traveler, naturalist, and amateur historian. Powell Gardens, with the partnership of conservation organizations and adjacent landowners, is actively managing this natural community to ensure its conservation for years to come.

Temperate grasslands, such as prairies, are North America’s most endangered ecosystem. In Missouri alone, 15 million acres of natural prairie once flourished, and now, less than half of one percent remains.

The once-expansive prairie community is an open landscape characterized by less than 10% canopy cover and dependent on disturbances such as fire and grazing. Prairies are robust and diverse ecosystems dominated by grasses and forbs; over 800 plant species can be found on prairies in Missouri along with an abundance of animals.

Within Ona’s Prairie one may encounter the Regal Fritilary (Speyeria idalia), a butterfly of conservation concern, along with numerous conservative plant species. Ona’s Prairie is one invaluable contributor to the greater conservation of tallgrass prairies.


Ona Gieschen

Ona’s spirit of adventure and discovery was apparent throughout her life. Ona carried her Missouri roots around the world during her successful 40-year career as an Air Hostess with Trans World Airlines, including leading the crew in “The Great World Air Cruise of 1970”. On weekends one could most often find Ona on her prairie, a natural community which had been settled by earlier Gieschen’s in the mid-1800’s, managing plants, or preparing for tours with other prairie enthusiasts in the region.

At Ona’s passing, Powell Gardens acquired ownership and management responsibility of this treasured community. Powell Gardens is grateful for Ona’s generosity and for the generations of stewards who have preserved this special ecological community.

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