Lead plant's lavender blooms punctuate a restored prairie in Northbrook, IL. 
photo: Mike MacDonald Photography

Grasslands of the Americas

Once stretching from the Rockies east beyond the Mississippi River, prairies have largely given way to cropland and towns. The story is the same around the globe. Grasslands are among the least protected, most altered, and imperiled biomes on Earth.

The staggering diversity of a healthy, native prairie is best explored on your hands and knees. Here, the diminutive yellow star grass mingles with bastard toadflax and prairie violets. These easily overlooked spring wildflowers bloom, are pollinated, and set seeds before being overtopped by summer’s tall grasses.