Summer Experience #1 – Tallgrass Wildflowers

I’d never seen anything like it. Fields of flowers surrounded by green grass. Native bison (commonly called buffalo) grazing nearby – not eating the flowers!

It seemed odd. Coming as I did from western Oklahoma, I was used to the way that cattle ate everything in sight, munching grass and flowers alike down to the very roots unless the animals were moved on to another pasture.

But bison don’t eat wildflowers. And so, a sure sign of a grazing pasture that feeds North American Bison (the continent’s only original native grazer) is the presence of wildflowers.

And once again, I’d never seen anything like it. Flowers are present Spring, Summer and Fall – but oh, the profusion of summer flowers, of all colors, is incredible to see. It’s worth a trip to The Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve north of Pawhuska, or to the Tallgrass Prairie site in Kansas, or if you can’t journey to either of those, try looking for wildflowers on the roadside ditches along any road in the middle of the nation’s breadbasket. The original tallgrass prairie ecosystem stretched all the way from Texas to Canada across the plains of the central United States. Now, all that are left are mostly tiny remnants mostly along railroad tracks or roads where the ground has not been plowed.

I can’t resist telling you the interesting names of some of these magnificent flowers. Look at a wildflower book like Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers, or Wildflowers of Kansas to see the beautiful pictures and learn more about when and where these flowers can be seen! I’ve divided them into groupings by color.

Blue and Purple
Prairie Turnip
Prairie Larkspur
Venus Looking Glass
Common Spiderwort
Showy Beard Tongue
Scurfy Pea
Purple Coneflower
Wild Bergamot
Wild Hairy Petunia
and many more…

Rose Vervain
Showy Evening Primrose
American Vetch
Pasture Rose
Prairie Phlox
Violet Wood Sorrel
Lemon Mint
Spotted Joe Pye Weed
Sensitive Briar
Common Milkweed
and many more…

Red and Orange
Indian Paintbrush
Butterfly Milkweed
Blanket Flower
Royal Catchfly

Hoary Puccoon
Gray-Green Wood Sorrel
Prairie Buttercup
Prairie Ragwort
Cream Wild Indigo
Yellow Star Grass
Potato Dandelion
Common Cinquefoil
Large-flowered Coreopsis
Black-eyed Susan
and many, many more…

Daisy Fleabane
Flowering Spurge
Seneca Snakeroot
Tube BeardTongue
Prairie Dogbane
Tall Green Milkweed
White Prairie Clover
White Wild Indigo
Spring Ladies’ Tresses
and many more…

Spider Milkweed
Prairie Alum Root

No doubt while reading through the list, you wondered about some of the names. It is likely that the indigenous people of North America passed the names of these plants on to European settlers, as well as information about some of their medicinal properties and uses. Books are available that provide information on this topic. Most often, teas and poltices were made from plants with healing properties. Some of today’s medicines are still based on these plants!

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