Arranged on a table in front of Davenport's Ground Transportation Center were 25 small gold boxes containing round "truffles" made of soil and laced with milkweed seeds.

The truffles, along with instructions on how to plant them, were part of a news conference on Wednesday announcing the formation of a new Quad-City environmental organization called Tallgrass Q-C that will seek to raise awareness about prairie ecology and promote its restoration.

Wearing a T-shirt stamped with a picture of Indian grass, Tim Schiffer, executive director of the Figge Art Museum, explained that the organization grew out of his idea to host an exhibit of prairie art at the Figge.

When museum members and ardent environmentalists Tony Singh and his wife, Joyce, of rural LeClaire caught wind of the exhibit, the idea grew.

With the recent attention given to pollinators and plantings that support their health, the Singhs suggested gathering other partners as part of a collaboration that would work to raise awareness about prairie ecology and promote restoration plantings to benefit pollinators and the overall environment.

One of the partners, WVIK, the National Public Radio station at Augustana College, has created a website called tallgrassqc.org that CEO Jay Pearce said he hopes will be a clearinghouse for information about regional environmental issues. The site will link to other groups, such as River Action Inc. and the Putnam Museum, he said.

In addition to the Figge exhibit, titled "Picturing the Prairie," which opened Saturday, other prairie-related activities happening this summer include the second annual Quad-Cities Pollinator Conference on June 23-24 at the Davenport RiverCenter, prairie plantings and tours and a butterfly release in September.

Brian Ritter, executive director of Davenport's Nahant Marsh, a conference sponsor, pointed out at Wednesday's gathering that 180 years ago, the site in front of the transportation center would have been covered in prairie.

When European settlers arrived, Iowa had 30 million acres of tallgrass prairie, he said. Within a lifetime, nearly all of that was gone, plowed under for farms and other development. In a sense, the prairie was its own worst enemy because its soil was so incredibly fertile.

Today, 99.9 percent of the prairie is gone, and Iowa's landscape is the most altered in the nation. Illinois isn't far behind.

That is a main reason insects, birds and other creatures that depended on this prairie are in trouble, Ritter said. People can help by creating their own plantings, he said. And they can log them on a map on the tallgrassqc website.

At the transportation center, the city of Davenport allowed the working up of turfgrass for the planting of 700 to 800 prairie plants purchased from a nursery.

"This is a small slice of what would have been here," Ritter said. "There is value in small prairie plots."

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