The Ecology of APT

Posted April 25, 2019

Beyond The Plays

APT's Efforts Post-Earth Day

Another Earth Day has come and gone (thank you Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson). And while this particular holiday is a good reminder to be nice to this planet that does her humble best for us, at APT we like to celebrate more than one day a year. From our compostable coffee cups from our friends at Steep & Brew, to fair trade items in our shops, to all the folks who watch over APT's 110 acres, there are a lot of exciting initiatives on the ground at APT. But first and foremost a request:

Volunteer for APT's Garlic Mustard Weed Out
Saturdays April 27, May 4, May 11
Help save our beautiful acreage from this nasty, invasive weed. Volunteers will receive one ticket to an APT performance on the Hill (some restrictions apply). This year's Garlic Mustard Weed Outs will run from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. For more information, and to sign up to volunteer, download the 2019 Garlic Mustard Weed Out form here, or email

The Battle With Invasive Species
Now that you're all signing up to help with the garlic mustard, here are a few more nuisance plants we'd like to see gone. APT has been battling invasive plants for many years. It is a labor-intensive endeavor, which includes cutting, pulling, digging, spot treating with herbicide and/or burning at specific times during the season to try to disrupt the growth and seed set of these exotic plants. Some of the species you may see include (of course) garlic mustard, Eurasian honeysuckle, buckthorn, Japanese barberry, sweet white clover, autumn olive and multi-flora rose. While it is unlikely we will be able to eliminate all of these species entirely, with persistent effort we will be able to keep the populations at a manageable level that does not completely alter the native ecosystem. 

Butterfly Resort
If you don't love Monarch butterflies, well...that's weird (though we're not giving up on you yet). In 2014 we became registered as a Monarch Waystation. These are places that provide resources necessary for monarch butterflies to produce successive generations and sustain their migration such as food like common milkweed and safe places for the next generation to evolve from caterpillar to butterfly. For more information on Monarch Waystations visit

Beneath our Feet
Our landscape didn't just pop out of the proverbial box like this. We put our collective heart and soul into this place, the land included. Controlled burns in the early spring help clear out the ghosts of overgrowth past, and leave the soil in ideal condition to host a new crop of lush native plants. In addition to working with the Wisconsin DNR, APT has a dedicated land manager who helps take care of these varied areas.

After years of restoration effort, the prairie areas at APT are beautiful and thriving. Our prairies consist of both native grasses and prairie wildflowers, also known as forbs. Their colorful blooms attract bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. To get enough sunlight, forbs tend to match the height of the grasses. Look for low-growing forbs in the spring, when grasses are still short. Summer and fall forbs are much taller.

Prairies found at APT
Dry, little water: Dry shallow soil over sand or limestone. Dry prairies on steep slopes are also called “Goat Prairies.” 
Mesic: Some water, medium-deep silt or sandy loam (soil with sand, silt and clay), good drainage.

In 2008, APT started restoring a six-acre area on the eastern edge of the property back to its historical oak savanna condition. A savanna is generally defined as a plant community where a low density of trees allows grasses and other herbaceous vegetation to become dominant. Oak savanna is one of the most threatened plant communities in the Midwest and many of the associated wildlife that rely upon this habitat, such as red-headed woodpeckers and whippoorwills, are considered rare. Removing encroaching invasive tree and brush species allows for the regeneration of desirable trees and shrubs, and an expanded habitat for nesting bird species. 

In the fall of 2012, with the help of volunteers from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, APT staff and volunteers began building a nature trail that takes visitors through the savanna.

Walk the Walk
It's a special thrill to walk our paths knowing you're on your way to see a play under the stars. But if you step beyond the paths that lead to the Hill and Touchstone Theatre's, you can experience some of the things we've been talking about here. Take a little extra time between your picnic and play, and Take a Walk on the Wild Side - our path that loops through to a breathtaking prairie overlook. Or wander behind Touchstone and the fruit of our partnership with the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

Love the earth? Love APT? Want to help? Join this generous group of individuals, and become a Green Sponsor.