Grasslands consist of areas dominated by native grasses. These areas include a variety of small bushes, flowers and other plants struggling to take hold among the thick grasses, with a few trees growing along the edges of creeks and streams. These semi-arid areas receive sporadic rain, requiring each plant and flower to adapt to growing and expanding in its quest for survival.
Grasslands get broken down into types, including tropical grasslands, also known as savannas, and temperate grasslands. Temperate grasslands get broken down further into prairies and steppes. Grasslands primarily consist of two types of grass: short grass and tall grass. Tall grass grows in more humid areas, where rain falls more frequently such as on the prairies. Short grass thrives in areas where hot summers and cold winters prevail, such as on steppes. In each of these areas, a profusion of other plants and flowers push through the thick, matted tangles of roots created by the grasses.
Plants and flowers that grow in the savannas rely on warm or hot climates where average rainfall reaches 20 to 50 inches annually. Savannas include areas in Africa, Australia, South America and India. Flowers and plants growing in the temperate grasslands thrive during hot summers and cold winters with moderate rainfall. Temperate grasslands occur in North America, South Africa, Hungary, Argentina, Uruguay and the former Soviet Union.
Grasses such as red oat, star and Rhodes grass make up most of the savanna, along with scattered flowering plants, deciduous trees and shrubs. Palm trees sometimes grow in the savannas. Grasses typical of temperate grasslands include big bluestem, buffalo grass and purple needlegrass. Flowers such as wild indigo, blazing stars, coneflowers, sunflowers and clover also grow in these areas, although they die back in the winter before coming to life again in the spring. While trees and large shrubs rarely grow in temperate grasslands, stands of cottonwoods, oaks and willows survive in areas where creeks and streams flow.
Grasslands provide an entire ecosystem that a variety of wildlife, birds and insects rely on for their existence. Many of the plants, such as goldenrod, provide medicinal value. For centuries, goldenrod has been used to treat ailments such as urinary tract infections, digestives problems, cold, flu and hay fever. Some plants, such as teasel, get used commercially. Found in European grasslands, teasel was used in machines to card wool.
Aboriginal peoples relied and still do rely on a variety of plants and flowers as sources of food, household goods and shelter. Native Americans crushed sagebrush leaves and applied the powder to heal rashes. They also used the roots of wild indigo to help cure pneumonia and tuberculosis. Aboriginal peoples in Australia's grasslands burn large swathes of climax spinifex grass in search of lizards for food. The fire helps other plants species spring to life and thrive when they otherwise would experience difficulty pushing through the thick grass on their own.