• The setting sun over the Flint Hills casts shadows across the wide expanse of tallgrass prairie.

    Tallgrass Prairie

    National Preserve Kansas

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    Windmill Pasture is home to the bison herd. They have been quite active in recent weeks. Please stay on the trails and use caution in their vicinity. Do not come in close contact with the bison. Allow at least 100 yards between you and the herd. More »

Plants at the Preserve

big bluestem grass

Big bluestem growing on the prairie

photo courtesy of Mike Haddock

Grasses and Forbs

The name Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is fitting, but it can be deceiving. Though many species of grass do grow taller than most people standing upright, there are also short grasses and several other different categories of plants found on the preserve.

Most native prairie flowers are classified as forbs. Forbs are defined as "any herbaceous plant growing in its native habitat except grasses and grass-like forms". Herbaceous plants are non-woody vegetation with succulent leaves and stems.

Collectively, there are 500 different species of plants found on the preserve. The greater mass of these plants exist in the form of long tentacled roots that reach deep under ground resembling an upside-down subterranean forest.

Scientists and researchers from around the world come to study this amazing and important prairie ecology. They recognize these grasses and forbs as the cornerstone of an important environmental "sink". It is here that the powerhouse of prairie plant life is stored allowing this hearty ecosystem to regenerate despite fire, grazing, flood, and drought.

This "sink" removes tons of carbon from the atmosphere. This balance of life both below and above ground has given the tallgrass prairie ecosystem a resilience that has survived nearly 10,000 years of climatic change.

The National Park Service's Heartland Network Inventory and Monitoring Program and others have gathered baseline data on plant and animal communities on the preserve. Click on the icon to the right to learn more about this program and its importance to the health of the prairie community.

KANSAS WILDFLOWERS AND GRASSES

 

Through efforts of members of the Kansas Native Plant Society and three speeches presented by Chase County Elementary School children to the Kansas State Legislature, Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) was named "State Grass of Kansas" by the Kansas State Legislature on July 1, 2010. Go to the Native Plant Society website below to learn more about the project and much more.

KANSAS NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY

Did You Know?

Grazing cattle at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Cattle can gain up to 2 pounds per day grazing on the prairie grasses of the Flint Hills. The calcium found in the limestone erodes into the soil, making the prairie plants more nutritious for grazing animals. Cattle grazing is still the main agricultural use of the Flint Hills today.