Natural Features & Ecosystems
Southeastern Nebraska, with its abundant rainfall, was historically covered by tallgrass prairie, which requires more moisture than the shorter grasses that are present in the arid west. The tallgrass prairie ecosystem is highly diverse and provides food and cover for a variety of insects, birds, and mammals. Prairie soil is also extremely fertile, having been nourished for centuries by decaying plant material. For this reason, areas that were once tallgrass prairie are now some of the most productive agricultural lands in the world. This fact has contributed to the immense loss and fragmentation of the prairie habitat in the past 150 years. Less than 1% of the prairie remains in its native state. Homestead National Monument preserves 100 acres of restored prairie.
Also of interest on the monument is the mesic bur oak forest. The forest follows Cub Creek, which supplies the water the trees require. Mesic bur oak forests are a rare community in Nebraska.