Our Precious Prairie

What is a Prairie?

Prairies are made up mostly of grasses, sedges and flowering plants called forbs. Most are perennials that grow back every year and have much of their growth underground. Many of the forbs have buds at or below the soil surface and a lot of root mass below ground. Most prairie grasses and forbs are adapted to drought, fire, and grazing. Without fire or grazing, invading trees and shrubs gradually turn grasslands into woodlands.

Woodlands are desirable. Why not just let that happen? Why are we saving the prairie? It would be much easier to ignore it and build right on top of it. In fact, its location is ideally suited for planting more houses. So why bother?

Prairies serve a vital ecological function. They are very effective at protecting soil and water resources and sequestering carbon. The dense and complex mix of plants in a prairie help to reduce soil erosion by slowing stormwater runoff during large rain events. With their deep roots, they also help to channel the water deep down into the soil, rather than letting it quickly run off into the nearest drainage channel. This not only helps to reduce downstream flooding and erosion, but it also helps to replenish the local water table.

Prairies also serve an aesthetic function. Each spring and summer the prairie comes to life as the blooms of the forbs attract butterflies, bees and dragonflies. The plants utilize the rainwater and help to break down the pollutants that are washed down with it into useful elements. Thus the prairie creates an ever changing palette of color that is not only pleasing to the eye but provides nourishment to many species of birds, insects and other wildlife.

To see pictures of Bear Creek Prairie and to learn more about the function the prairie will serve within the community, you can read about us in the ” Winter 2007” issue of the Missouri Prairie Journal. Click on the link below, then click on “Winter 2007” and scroll to page 16.

  • Prairie Journal Archive
  • http://www.moprairie.org/PrairieJournalArchive.html