Importance

What is the importance of prairies?

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Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

"A prairie is defined as an ecological community that has less than one tree per acre. A prairie is a grassland dominated by grasses and forbs. The various grasses determine the structure of the prairie, but the beautiful and diverse forbs give the prairie it’s spectacular color."

(Ohio State University Marion Campus Nature Center and Prairie. Selected Prairie Plants: The Prairie Sourcebook. Excerpt from "Prairie Defined", p.8. Spring 1993.)

"The tough prairie sod is a great conserver of soil and water. Sod acts like a giant sponge catching and holding rainwater. As a result, the amount of water runoff from the prairie is small compared to land where there is no strong network of roots to absorb the rain. The roots also bind the soil tightly to the earth, protecting it against erosion. Prairie sod is so dense that settlers once used it like bricks to build houses. A square yard of soil just 4 inches deep may contain roots that would stretch for 20 miles if they were placed end to end."

(Black Footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team, "Prairie Ecosystem," http://www.blackfootedferret.org/prairie.html. July 5, 2000)

Hedge Binweed (Calystegia sepium)

Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium)

Prairie Grass

Prairie Grass

"During each burn, non-native plants are removed, allowing prairie plants more nutrients and room to grow. Prairie plants can survive fires since they have deep roots and grow from a point underground. A prescribed burn is a crucial component in prairie restoration."

(Illinois State Museum, "Prairie Restoration: Fire and Prairie Partnerships," http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/prairie/htmls/pr_fire.html)

"Many prairie wildflowers have medicinal value to humans, such as the purple coneflower, or Echinacea. This member of the sunflower and daisy family was used by Native American tribes to treat ailments from ordinary colds to snakebite. In laboratory tests the plant shows anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties and increases the resistance of cell cultures to viruses. One compound it produces appears to stimulate the immune system and another serves as a natural insecticide. Echinacea is now widely available as an herbal supplement."

("Prairie Ecosystem," http://www.blackfootedferret.org/prairie.html)

Sullivant's Milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii)

Sullivant's Milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii)

Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)

Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)

"There are hundreds of different plant and animal species living in a community. The relative importance of a species to the structure of a community is measured by the degree of change that would result in the community if the species were to be removed. This change would be reflected by the gain or loss of other species."

(Ohio State University Marion Campus Nature Center and Prairie. Selected Prairie Plants: The Prairie Sourcebook. Excerpt from "Keystone Species", p.17. Spring 1993.)

"Similar populations can co-exist, but we assume that there is a limit to the similarity of species’ niches that will allow coexistence."

(Ohio State University Marion Campus Nature Center and Prairie. Selected Prairie Plants: The Prairie Sourcebook. Excerpt from "Niche", p.16. Spring 1993.)

Yellow Coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa)

Yellow Coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa)

Created by Laura Bolte, Gabriella Cortijo, and Richelle Poeppelmeyer