In the News

The American Prairie Conference occurs every other year. It hasn’t been held in Texas for 30 years!Take advantage of this opportunity to showcase

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HNPAT Program Meeting Wednesday from 6:30pm – 8:30pm “Inspiring Through Education at Lawther Deer Park Prairie”(NPAT photo: a couple walking Lawther…

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2019 TLC CONFERENCE • Conservation Related Policy Issues • Conservation Easements & Private Land Conservation • Opportunities to…

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Prairie Facts

How is a prairie different from common fields of grass?

Every acre of high quality prairie has 200 to 300 different kinds of wildflowers and grasses which are native to the American prairies. The pastures you see when you are driving down the highways generally have been grazed more or less continuously since settlement times. This ultimately removes all but the inedible plants.

Fields that have been plowed are replanted in one kind of grass and not the natives which were here in pre-settlement times with the native Americans. Instead, grasses which have been introduced from other parts of the world are planted. Johnson grass, for instance, is not a native grass, but is an invasive grass introduced from the Mediterranean region.

The Tallgrass Prairie is a proud part of our heritage. It is the original unchanged land that the ancestors of this community walked upon. It is the landscape of our pioneer heritage. And it is invaluable in the education of our children. How can we speak of the tallgrass prairie in the schools and have none to show the children? Please! Learn to recognize prairie remnants and save them.

Examine the land, and eliminate:

land that has obviously been plowed
has contours bulldozed into it
is a monoculture of plants
is a field of crops in rows

Study this picture. It’s easy to misidentify this as a “prairie”, especially in winter, but note the monoculture of form and appearance - this is solid Johnson grass.

Look for a field of grasses and wildflowers that seems to have a lot of different kinds of plants. In a good quality prairie, different kinds of grasses abut against each other in a mosaic of textures and subtle color changes as one population of prairie plants yields to another. Check out the Plants of Texas Rangelands virtual herbarium and look for little bluestem, a common indicator of prairie in many prairie types in Texas. Also, look for side-oats grama.

Unfortunately the vast majority of pastures are now planted in King Ranch Bluestem, an invasive Asian exotic grass, and other non-natives. So you’ll need to learn what some of those look like too. If in doubt, take samples of an entire plant to your nearest college or university, or you may send your samples to us along with a large self-addressed stamped envelope and we’ll label your specimens for you.