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Characteristics of Temperate Grasslands

prairie image by Jean-Michel POUGET from

Grass is the dominant vegetation in temperate grasslands. According to the University of California, climates with annual rainfall averages of 10 to 40 inches are home to temperate grasslands. Most of the rainfall occurs in late spring and early summer. Temperatures range from as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Vegetation found in temperate grasslands varies according to rainfall.


Temperate grasslands occur in many areas around the world, including North America, the former Soviet Union, Hungary, South Africa, Uruguay and Argentina. Prairies are grasslands with tall grasses, while steppes have short grasses. Steppes, occur in the interior of North America, Europe and in the former Soviet Union. Large shrubs and trees are nearly nonexistent in all temperate grasslands.


According to the Museum of Palenontology, seasonal droughts and occasional fires contribute to the bio diversity of prairies. Fires clear the dead grass and kill creatures too small to escape. The larger species eat those that do not survive. Plant roots remain undamaged and uses starch reserves to grow when the soil becomes moist. Temperate grassland soil has fertile upper layers, created from fires and the decay of deep grass roots. Droughts and fires, which provide bio diversity and grazing, prevent the growth of most shrubs and trees. In river valleys, some oaks, willows and cottonwoods are able to grow.Prairie vegetation includes purple needlegrass, galleta, buffalo grass, blazing stars,asters, goldenrods, sunflowers, wild indigos and clovers.


According to the Museum of Palenontology, regions with steppes receive between 10 and 20 inches of annual rainfall. Plants found growing in steppes include cacti, buffalo grass, small sunflowers and blue gramma grass. Farmers in the steppes region graze livestock and grow wheat and other crops. Many problems have harmed some steppes over time, from overgrazing, plowing and excessive salts left by irrigation. After plowing, especially during droughts, strong winds blow the loose soil. The dust storms in the U.S. Great Plains in the 1930s resulted from these conditions.

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