Burleson Prairie

Published by Kirsti Harms on

The 409-acre Burleson Farm and 18-acre Maruna Meadow are exceptional Blackland prairies owned by the Burleson family. The conservation of these iconic restored and remnant prairies focuses on maintaining the health and biodiversity of the rapidly disappearing Texas native grasslands. NPAT wants future generations to experience what much of this region of Texas looked like before European settlement. The importance of ensuring ongoing conservation of this iconic landscape has never been more urgent than now with explosive population growth in the Bell County area creating a significant loss of habitat for wildlife and threatening this rare and endangered ecosystem—the tallgrass prairie.

Location: Bell County
Region: Blackland Prairie
Size: 427 acres
Ownership: Owned by Mickey Burleson and conservation easement held by NPAT

The Burleson family property contains probably the oldest and most successful native prairie restoration site in Texas. Ms. Burleson and her late husband, Bob worked for more than two decades to reintroduce and cultivate native forb and grass species from hay meadows in Bell County, which have since been converted to other land uses. Maruna Meadow and a section of the Burleson Farm are actual Blackland prairie remnants. This property has been used as a source of native seed and hay for restoration of other projects in the region. Parts of the property are currently in crop and hay production.  

Mickey Burleson has always been generous with sharing the prairie with others.

The Burlesons have always been generous about sharing their prairie with interested groups including NPAT, as well as local Master Naturalist, Audubon Society and Native Plant Society groups. We hope to continue this collaboration into the future.

Burleson Farm and Maruna Meadow lie within the Texas Blackland Prairie region that runs north-south through the midsection of the state. The Blackland Prairie is an extension of the North American tallgrass prairie with little bluestem as a climax dominant. Other important grasses are big bluestem, yellow Indiangrass, switchgrass, sideoats grama, Eastern gamagrass, and tall dropseed.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 99.9% of the Blackland prairie has been plowed for croplands or fundamentally altered through heavy grazing or other damaging land management practices. Only a few remnants are protected as hay meadows or conservancy land in this part of the state.

Check out A Burleson Prairie Adventure, by LIsa Spangler. Read it here.

Maruna Meadow

This prairie is one of the few remaining sites in the area that illustrates what the first Bell County settlers saw upon their arrival. Czechoslovakian immigrants who came here in 1881 found the Blackland Prairie of Central Texas to be similar to the type of farmland they had left behind. Over the years, while other parts of the prairie surrounding Maruna Meadow were plowed for farms, the Maruna family maintained this 18-acre area in its original state. The meadow now is one of the few remnants of Blackland Prairie in Bell County.

The Burlesons talked about their prairie for the Texas Legacy Project in 1999.
Prairie Heroes

“Bob and Mickey Burleson are two of my prairie heroes. Decades ago, when few people talked about tallgrass prairie conservation and restoration, they went and did it. They purchased worn-out crop land and an overgrazed prairie remnant in Bell County. They spent many years restoring more than two hundred acres of highly diverse Blackland Prairie by collecting and planting local ecotype native seed from area hay meadow, prairie remnants. And by conducting invasive plant removal, prescribed burning, haying, and other management practices.

Their prairie is an invaluable source of locally adapted native plant genetics and seed, and they have provided prairie seed and seed hay for use in other restorations.

Both Bob and Mickey were founding members of the Native Prairies Association of Texas. They served on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and were largely responsible for the existence of a natural resource management section within that department. Mickey initiated the Texas Land Stewards program and was influential in TNC’s early priority on Blackland Prairie preservation. Mickey also served as a board member and vice president of Audubon Texas.”

~ Jason Spangler, Past President of NPAT

The Burlesons also wrote one of the earliest Texas tallgrass restoration guides: “The New Southern Reconstruction – Home Grown Prairies.” 

Special thanks to TPWD’s Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program for helping make this conservation easement possible.


1 Comment

Lisa Spangler · June 9, 2023 at 10:24 am

Bob, Mickey and Clair are true prairie heroes! I can remember sitting with Bob as he showed us on a map where they collected seeds — and it had already been plowed or paved over and lost forever. Their restored prairie is a Central Texas gene bank. I’m so happy that this special place will be safe forever! What a treasure.

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