The prairie offers a wide array of beautiful plants; a vast variety of grasses and flowers can be found as well as shrubs and trees. A prairie in full bloom offers nectar for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, while the other plant parts feed all sorts of animals and insects. Each prairie plant has adapted to the area it grows in; they are able to withstand high winds and extremes in temperature, all while working together through a network of roots and branches.
Big Bluestem Grass (Andropogon gerardii)
One of the most noticeable species of prairie grass, A. gerardii can grow 10 feet tall in favorable conditions. The ability to produce long taproots has enabled this plant to thrive in harsh, windy prairie conditions. The airy, flowering stalks of this plant grow to eight feet. A. gerardii is a natural food source for the wild bison of North America. Big bluestem is the official prairie grass of Illinois.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
U. dioica can grow to 4 feet in height. This plant produces formic acid that, when touched, creates welts and a burning sensation that can last for days. Stinging nettle has been used throughout history and is still used in modern times, to treat various illnesses including but not limited to, joint pain, anemia and prostate problems. This species grows best in areas where the soil is damp and rich in nutrients.
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
The bur oak is native to the Eastern prairies of North America. Under favorable conditions, this tree can slowly reach a height of 20 meters. Bur oak prefers areas where water is plentiful but will grow in dry ground. Older, larger trees offer shade to sunny sites.
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
M. fistulosa, more commonly known as bee balm, is an important source of nectar for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. This plant can reach heights of up to 5 feet. It has a branching habit, with each stem being topped with a spiky, fragrant blossom. The leaves of M. fistulosa are a common ingredient in various herbal teas. This plant grows best in rich, moist, well-drained soils.
Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra)
F. rubra is one of the showiest plants growing in the prairie regions. It produces large, airy plumes of pink flowers. Its compound leaves are up to 2 feet long. Bees use it as a source of pollen. This plant prefers organic, rich soils with high moisture content. F. rubra grows to six feet tall under ideal conditions.