According to Marietta College, if you had to sum up the characteristics of a grassland biome in one word it would be dry. Precipitation in the grasslands does not exceed 100 centimeters per year. Grasslands are a temperate, subtropical land with very hot summers and very cold winters. The primary grasslands of the world are the Midwestern prairie regions of the United States, and the steppes of Russia.
Grass is the most characteristic plant of grasslands. But no one species of grass makes up the grasslands. When we speak of grass we are referring to a monocot species of plant with a round stem and pollen that is spread by the wind. Grasslands also have a number of plants that are not true grasses, such as rushes and sedges.
Thistles are native to many parts of the world, and it is common to find both native and introduced species dwelling side-by-side in many grasslands. In areas where land is being cultivated, thistle is considered to be a noxious weed because it can spread by wind and quickly crowd out less hearty, cultivated crops. Most thistles are characterized by a purple top on a flower-like stem with leaves that contain thorns at the margins. Some variety of thistles has thorns all over the plant. In grasslands, the thistle provides food for birds and insects.
Milkweed gets its name from the sticky white sap that the plant exudes whenever it is bruised or broken. Milkweed is an important food source for the Monarch butterfly, which migrates along the grasslands of the North American continent. The butterfly synthesizes the poison that the milkweed contains, and uses it as a defense mechanism. Milkweed flowers are also an important source of nectar for bees and other insects.
Queen Anne's Lace
Queen Anne's Lace, or wild carrot, is an introduced species of plant that is now found commonly throughout grasslands in North America. The plant is a distant relative to both the carrot and the parsnip. It is identified by a cluster of white flowers that form a flat head on a tall stalk. The plant's roots may be eaten when young, and the seeds may be crushed and consumed as a form of birth control.