LSU-E professor pens book on Cajun prairie

EUNICE - Louisiana State University Eunice professor of biology Malcolm Vidrine has announced the release of his new book, “The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History.”

The 314-page book includes a gallery of photographs of the last remaining pieces of the Cajun Prairie and explores the history of the 2.5 million acre prairie based on journals and articles focusing on periods from pre-settlement to the present. This work provides the first published natural history on the Cajun Prairie; the book details research on the remnant prairies and on the rediscovery and restoration of the prairie.

The prairie, once called ‘the garden of Louisiana,’ stretched from Lake Charles to New Iberia and up to Ville Platte. Today, less than 100 acres remain in narrow strips and small pieces dotting the landscape.

“If I was teaching a class on the Cajun Prairie, this is the book I’d use to teach it,” said Vidrine. “The invited speakers for that class would be the people highlighted in this book.”

Vidrine noted that the book is a compilation of the work of other fellow biologists like Dr. Charles Allen who is an accomplished authority on the native plants of Louisiana and a Research Associate with Colorado State University – Fort Polk Station. “The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History” is the result of the work of a group of devoted prairie ecologist and enthusiasts.

“For this effort, I am taking on the role of scribe, but I am using my credentials and personal experiences to annotate the story of the Cajun Prairie,” said Vidrine.

The book includes 26 appendixes which cover everything from the timeline of the Cajun Prairie to the flora found on the prairie to the flight seasons of butterflies and dragonflies. Vidrine also includes the blooming times of the plants on the prairie and a history of the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society.

“I am continuously amazed by the fact that others are interested in the prairie,” said Vidrine. “After so many encounters with those who not only dislike but also despise it, I am so pleased to see changes in the heart and interest from young people.”

Vidrine began work on the “The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History” in January of 2008 when he took a sabbatical for the spring semester.

He was able to include 87 full-color photographs of the Cajun Prairie, and of prairie remnants and of the Cajun Prairie restoration project in Eunice with the assistance of the Opelousas General Hospital Endowed Professorship in Science through the LSUE Foundation.

This work is Vidrine’s tenth book and his second dealing with the Cajun Prairie. His first book “The Cajun Prairie Restoration Journal: 1988-1995” was published in 1995 and told the story of the Cajun Prairie Restoration site in Eunice. Vidrine co-authored the book with Allen and Bill Fontenot.

Vidrine was born and reared in Eunice and is a graduate of Mamou High School where he was class valedictorian and a National Merit Scholarship Winner. He went on to earn degrees at LSU and the University of Southwestern Louisiana where he earned his doctorate in Biology.

Before coming to LSU Eunice in 1984, he served as a research biologist with the Gulf South Research Institute in New Iberia and was the assistant director and research director of the Jefferson Davis Parish Mosquito Abatement District in Jennings.

“The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History” can be purchased from Vidrine directly for $25 by emailing him at malcolmvidrine@yahoo.com. The $25 charge includes shipping.

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