Summer prairie grasses
Summer prairie grasses.

Did you know that five different plant communities exist within Agate Fossil Beds National Monument? Each community supports a different mix of plants, depending upon its proximity to the Niobrara River or to the water table.

Discover everything from sedges and marshweed to prickly pear cactus as well as a wide variety of grasses.Moving from the Niobrara River to the high valley bluffs, you will find five plant communities: 1) riparian, 2) cottonwood, 3) lowland prairie, 4) upland prairie, and 5) rocky bluffs.

The wetland and riparian areas offer a look at water-loving plants not always seen in the prairie: fox tail barley, cattails, reeds, sedges, yellow Siberian irises and blue flag irises.

The semiarid climate of the Great Plains area has led to the evolution of the grasslands. We protect a mixed grass prairie, a mixture of tall and short grasses growing together. The mixed grass prairie extends from North Dakota through South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, central Oklahoma and the north-central part of Texas.

Prairies have semiarid climates with wide fluctuations in temperature. Most precipitation is received during the growing season. At Agate, this is from April to June. We average about 15 inches of precipitation a year. But during droughts, this can be as low as 9 inches... or less!

Another characteristic of prairies is their flat to rolling terrain and fertile soil rich in organic matter. The climate and soils promote the growth of grasses, not trees which require more water.

Vegetation plays a vital role in the ecosystem. Plants capture particulate dust in the air, filter gaseous pollutants, convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, provide animal habitat and food, and possess many raw materials useful to humans.

Last updated: August 30, 2021

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