Rich. Rare. Worth saving.
Get to know the grasslands of North America
There once were 22 million acres of tallgrass prairie in Illinois; now, one hundredth of one percent of high-quality prairie remains. Tallgrass prairies are places of high biodiversity that are rich in beauty and bright with native plants like purple coneflowers (Echinacea) and pollinators such as monarch butterflies. Prairies are rare, complex, diverse natural habitats. Learn more about the conservation, restoration, and stewardship work being done to protect the remaining prairies and restore others.
noun [ prai·rie ]
- hot summers, cold winters, and periodic droughts
- the presence of fire, both natural and intentionally set
- grazing by large mammals, such as bison and elk, resulting in enhanced plant diversity
There once were 22 million acres of tallgrass prairie in Illinois; now, less than one percent remains. This map shows 6 different types of prairies found in the Chicago region. Stop by and visit!
At the Garden
A Year in the Life of a Prairie
Ponder prairies and explore highlights as the seasons change with ecologist David Sollenberger.
What Makes Prairies Uniquely Beautiful
The tallgrass prairie landscape is filled with 10-foot-tall grasses, and a blooming spectacle of dozens of wildflowers throughout the growing season: prairie violets in the spring, bright purple coneflowers in the summer, and asters in the fall, and wildlife from meadowlarks to monarch butterflies. Even underground, prairies have a fascinating story to tell: The prairie’s carbon-rich soil acts a sponge to absorb rainfall, helping provide water to the roots of native plants that can reach 15 feet deep.
The Scoop on Soil
Benefits of the Blaze
Meet a Diverse Community
The prairie is home to hundreds of native plant species—more than 850 plant species are indigenous to the prairies of Illinois alone. Native plants, birds, butterflies, insects, and other wildlife depend on this complex and diverse habitat to survive. In one year, 111 species of native bees were found in a 30-acre prairie restoration.
They Play a Key Role in our Changing Climate
The deep and abundant roots and rich soil found in prairies act as a carbon storehouse and absorb and filter rainwater. This slows down the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—an important factor in climate change—while helping minimize the impact of flooding on communities. Here's how you can help: Plant native prairie plants, visit prairies, and spread the word to friends and family about the importance of protecting biodiversity and native habitats.