Welcome to the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum

At one time, most of Fond du Lac County was covered by prairie -- native grasslands that were home to bison, prairie chickens, bobolinks and other wildlife. At the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum on the UW-Fond du Lac campus, a group of volunteers has reestablished the native plants that once grew on this site.

The project began in 1991, with the goal of representing the original plant communities of Wisconsin in a small arboretum. At present, volunteers have planted 42 acres of native prairie grasses and wildflowers, developed two wildlife ponds and planted 176 native trees and shrubs. Most of the wildflower seeds were collected from some of the last remaining original prairie sites in Fond du Lac County. To educate local residents there's an interpretive trail as well as six benches, two picnic tables, and a kiosk for recreation.

The Formal Arboretum is an innovative attempt to depict the native plants and plant communities of Wisconsin in a design representing the "Tension Zone" of our state. This is the area of overlap of northern and southern Wisconsin plant communities, which occurs in the Fond du Lac area. It consists of savannah, lowland forests and northern mixed forests, plus their associated wildflowers.

The Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum is named for Bradley Gottfried, former dean of UW-Fond du Lac, and a major force behind the project's initiation and development. Dean Gottfried's vision and persistence have resulted in the restoration of a portion of native prairie for county residents to enjoy.

Educational Programs

Of Light and Devotion, A Contemplative Approach to Photography

Lora Vahlsing
Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 6 pm to 9 pm
Room UC114 University Center


Contemplative photography is about showing up in one's environment and being present. This act of mindfulness allows the photographer to be receptive and forms a different relationship between photographer and subject. Learn new ways to look through the lens with a heightened sense of your surroundings. We will spend some of the class walking through the prairie and arboretum exploring the natural world around us along with some critiquing at the end of the session.

Lora Vahlsing is a local poet, artist, photographer, and yogi. She teaches art and yoga courses at UW-FDL and Marian University. Whether she's taking photos, writing poems, or teaching, she tries to incorporate a contemplative approach in everything she does.

Wisconsin Wetlands - Ecology, Appreciation and Restoration

Alice Thompson
Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 7 pm
Room UC114 University Center


Learn about wetland ecology and discover some our of wetland gems that are located in the state. Alice will discuss wetland restoration in southeast Wisconsin and the challenges we face in the midst of invasive species, climate change, hydrology shifts and species loss.

Alice Thompson is a wetland ecologist and as owner of Thompson and Associates Wetland Services, she works on wetland restoration and mitigation projects in southeast Wisconsin. She is lead author of the Wetland Restoration Handbook for Wisconsin Landowners published by the DNR.

Seed Collection Workshop

Margie Winter
Saturday, October 18, 2014, 9 am to noon
Meet at the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum Shelter


We will begin the workshop with a discussion on seeds, including when and how to collect them from your favorite native plants. Participants will walk through the prairie and learn how to identify wildflowers and grasses in the seed stage. They will collect and clean the seed heads while learning how to store and propagate the seed for growing plants.

Margie Winter taught high school science in the Fond du Lac School District and the Sun Prairie School District for a total of 31 years. For the last 2 years, Margie has taught an environmental science course and a prairie ecosystems and restoration course at Marian University. The prairie course is offered jointly to students from UW-FDL and Marian University and utilizes the Gottfried Prairie as an outdoor classroom.