What is so special about tallgrass prairie? I’ve noticed that most people who are prairie enthusiasts are usually extremely passionate about their love of prairies. I consider myself in this lot.
So let me try to articulate my love of tallgrass prairies. Another naturalist once said that to experience a tallgrass prairie, you need to walk out in it. Wade through the tallgrass and wild flowers. Simply driving past a prairie will not do.
As I walk into a prairie I am drawn into a complex world. A virgin prairie is a primeval place which takes no direction from the world of man. Every square inch of prairie is different from every other square inch. Grasses like Big Bluestem compete with prairie wildflowers for sunlight. Butterflies and dragonflies flitter around me. A clump of brilliant orange Butterfly weed catches my eye. Then I see flashy pink prairie phlox. I wonder why I didn’t see either just a moment before as I exited my car. By now I’ve forgotten man’s world of mono cultures and artificial order.
Persons wanting to experience biodiversity need not leave the American Midwest. One acre of high quality virgin tallgrass prairie can easily contain 200+ plant species with an equal variety of insects, birds, and reptiles. The diversity of the prairie makes every visit one of exploration and surprises.
The rarity of tallgrass prairie also attracts me. While the Amazon rain forest continues to be leveled in the present, the tallgrass prairie was relegated to minuscule scraps and is now 99.9% gone in Iowa. This has been the case since the mid 20th century. Take a walk in a tallgrass prairie and you are time traveling to an Iowa landscape that doesn’t exist.
It’s time for me to leave the prairie now. I exit as I step foot on the non-native bluegrass that covers the parking area.