Tallgrass prairie is an open community that contains few trees or shrubs. The tallgrass prairie plants occur in a single layer of mainly tall grasses such as big bluestem and Indian grass; composites such as sunflowers, coreopsis, and asters; and legumes such as senna, wild indigo, and leadplant. Fauna in the tallgrass prairie ecosystem (but not necessarily at LREC) include bison, elk, ground squirrels, eastern meadowlarks, coyotes, badgers, horned larks, prairie chickens, northern harriers, upland sandpipers, prairie mound ants, regal fritillaries and many more species. Few of these characteristic flora and fauna are currently present in large areas of their former habitat. The ecosystem of these plant and animal species once covered an area stretching from Manitoba to Texas to Indiana, a total of about 250,000,000 square miles of land area. The distribution of tallgrass prairie was determined by the dry climate, frequent fires, topography, grazing animals, soils, and geology of the prairie region. Today, the tallgrass prairie is the most endangered ecosystem in North America, 99% of it has been converted to farm fields or cities.
Tallgrass prairie once covered vast acreage in Missouri—18,484 square miles of the state, or 26.7%, was prairie in presettlement times. Most of the St. Louis area was prairie prior to Euro-American settlement. In particular, according to the 19th century land surveys of this area, much of the bottomland surrounding Deer Creek where LREC is located, was once wet-mesic tallgrass prairie, which is one of the primary ecosystems we are restoring at LREC.
Nelson, P. W. 1985. The Terrestrial Natural Communities of Missouri. The Missouri Natural Areas Committee: Jefferson City, MO.
Packard, S. and C. F. Mutel. 1997. The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook. Island Press: Washington, DC.
Schroeder. 1982. Presettlement Prairies of Missouri.
Thompson, J. R. 1992. Prairies, Forests, and Wetlands: The Restoration of Natural Landscape Communities in Iowa. University of Iowa Press: Iowa City, IA.
Links (links below will open in a new window):
American Prairie Foundation (http://www.americanprairie.org/)
Missouri Native Plant Society (http://MissouriNativePlantSociety.org)
Missouri Prairie Foundation (http://www.moprairie.org)
Missouri Department of Conservation (http://mdc.mo.gov)
Nature Conservancy Missouri Chapter (http://nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/missouri/)
Shaw Nature Reserve (http://www.shawnature.org/)