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Little House on the Prairie in Jefferson County: Prairie Ecology

Guide to author events, library happenings, and resources to learn about Missouri's prairie experience.



The plains grasslands of North America, named from the French word for meadow. At the time of the first European settlement such grasslands are estimated to have covered 770 million ha, mainly in the USA,with smaller prairie areas in Canada and desert grasslands of the southern USA extending into Mexico. The prairies developed between the Middle Miocene and Early Holocene as increasing aridity led to the replacement of semi-open forest and woodland with open grassland. Fires, both natural and deliberate (set by native Americans), are thought to have contributed to the expansion of grassland beyond climatic limits, particularly in the eastern part of the Great Plains where at the time of European settlement grassland— forest ecotones were abrupt, suggesting climate was not the only controlling influence. From "Prairie" The Encyclopedia of Ecology and Environmental Management, Blackwell Science

Missouri Prairies

Why Prairies Matter

Why Prairies Matter. The Missouri Prairie Foundation

Buffalo Dusk by Carl Sandburg

The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how they pawed the prairie sod into dust with their hoofs, their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.
Source: The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg (Harcourt Brace Iovanovich Inc., 1970)