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Discover Nature: National Prairie Day

Light purple petals of purple coneflowers illuminated by sun with green grass, blue sky, white clouds in background on a Missouri prairie in June.
Noppadol Paothong/Noppadol Paothong
Noppadol Paothong
Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) sway in the breeze under a late spring sky at Golden Prairie Natural Area near Golden City. Celebrate National Prairie Day on June 5, 2021, by visiting a native tallgrass prairie near you. Photo: Noppadol Paothong.

Celebrate National Prairie Day on June 5, 2021, in Missouri’s tallgrass prairies.

The North American Great Plains — one of the world’s greatest grasslands — historically stretches from Manitoba to Oklahoma and Indiana.

In the eastern range, Missouri receives more annual rainfall, and thus supports taller grasses than the short- and mixed-grass prairies in western states. Perennial warm season grasses and forbs dominate Missouri’s tallgrass prairies, with scattered shrubs, and very few trees. Native plants’ deep root systems — often much deeper than what’s visible aboveground —hold soil in place, retain moisture, and maintain resilience to disturbances such as periodic fire and grazing.

Healthy prairies support thousands of plant and animal species — all working together for ecological balance over vast landscapes.

Biodiversity keeps the prairie humming.

More than 100 species of ants, and more than 150 species of bees do much of the work on the prairie: pollinating plants, building soil by cycling nutrients, and providing food for birds and other animals.

Human-caused disturbances and introduction of non-native plant species threaten remnant native prairies, but persistent conservation efforts and public land protections ensure these ecosystems do not altogether perish.

Learn more about Missouri’s tallgrass prairies and other grasslands with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Prairie Foundation. Find a public prairie near you, and celebrate National Prairie Day with a visit to these complex ecosystems, right here in Missouri.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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