Big Bluestem against a prairie sky
Big Bluestem can reach a height of five feet.

NPS photo

Several types of grassland plant communities are found in the region. The area provides a botanical transition between the tallgrass prairie of more humid areas to the east, and the dryer shortgrass prairie to the west. Sandhills mixed-grass prairie covers the upland country south of the river, with plant species adapted to the sandy conditions.

Table 1. Common mixed-grass prairie plant and forb species.

Common Name

Scientfic Name

Sand bluestem

Andropogon hallii

Little bluestem

Schizachyrium scoparium


Stipa comata


Koeleria macrantha

Prairie sandreed

Calamovilfa longifolia

Sand dropseed

Sporobolus asper

Blue grama

Bouteloua gracilis

Hairy grama

Bouteloua hirsuta


Panicum virgatum

Louisiana sagewort

Artemisia ludoviciana

Common milkweed

Asclepias syriaca


Amorpha canescens

Scaly blazing star

Liatris squarrosa

Prairie spiderwort

Tradescantia occidentalis


Yucca glauca

Wild rose

Rosa woodsii

Small remnant patches of tallgrass prairie can be found on moist river bottoms. Typical tallgrass prairie species found along the Niobrara River are highlighted in Table 2 below.

Table 2. Common tallgrass prairie plant and forb species.

Common Name

Scientific Name

Big bluestem

Andropogon gerardii


Sorghastrum nutans

Heath aster

Aster ericoides

Annual sunflower

Helianthus annuus

Prairie coneflower

Ratibida columnifera

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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