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The Elemental Prairie: Sixty Tallgrass Plants

The Elemental Prairie: Sixty Tallgrass Plants
John Madson
University of Iowa Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, 93 p., $34.95

Artist George Olson has created prairie plant studies that are luminous reminders of the beauty of the prairie landscape through all seasons. He captures the constant winds in the whirling leaves of the tall grasses and the changing seasons as the tall goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), gradually turn into wands of crinkled leaves with pale remnants of their former beauty. His placement of each specimen in a drawing is very much as it would be in a natural setting in the prairie: the lofty queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra) reaches for the sun with its bloom like a pink plume adornment; black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) thrusts its blooms upward in profusion; and the thorny branches of blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis), filled with fruit, trail provocatively along the ground.

Accompanying this pictorial celebration of the tallgrass prairie is a lyrical and sometimes poignant text by John Madson, an extraordinary raconteur now deceased, whose words capture the essence of this awesome, windswept landscape that greeted explorers and pioneers when they first ventured onto the open plain. Through the magic of his words, he brings forth images of the prairie and shares stories of the pioneers and animal life that once dwelled there.

— Marilyn K. Alaimo, garden writer and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden