The Meadow

A Pocket Guide to Flint Hills Wildflowers and Grasses.

 

Welcome to
The Meadow!

This part of the Great Plains Nature Center website is adapted from the booklet
"A Pocket Guide to Kansas Flint Hills Wildflowers"

Use the links below to
find out more about these plants!

Click here to download a pdf version!  PDF version available!

Where is the Flint Hills?
How many wildflowers are in the Flint Hills?
What makes the Flint Hills special?
References & Glossary
Species accounts
Background on the booklet and how you can get one
Where is the Flint Hills?
The Flint Hills physiographic region stretches north and south nearly 200 miles through the eastern half of the state. It includes part of 20 counties and covers most of nine. The area is named for the chert or flint rock that covers the slopes. Because these rocky soils discouraged plowing, much of this region remains as native tallgrass prairie. Kansas Flint Hills location map
How many wildflowers are in the Flint Hills?

Monarch on Purple Coneflower
Monarch on Purple Coneflower
  Eileen Horn

Some 1,000 species of flowering plants and ferns are found in the Flint Hills, about half of the total for all of Kansas. They represent 110 plant families, the largest being the Aster Family with 145 species. Second largest is the Grass Family with approximately 125 species. The Meadow features 61 of these species.

With the changing seasons, the panorama of the landscape changes in both color and height. Bloom times shown for each species vary depending on latitude. Plants at the southern end of the Flint Hills will bloom sooner than those nearer Nebraska. The variety of distinctive wildflowers and grasses characterizes this unique ecosystem.

What makes the Flint Hills special?
The Kansas Flint Hills hold the nation’s last remaining expanses of tallgrass prairie. Prairie, a French word meaning "meadow", contains wildflowers and grasses that are not only beautiful but also serve many valuable ecological functions.

Some of the benefits of native plants and plant species diversity include:
1) preventing soil erosion
2) filtering percolating water through a network of perennial roots
3) storing vast amounts of organic carbon that would otherwise be oxidized to become a greenhouse gas
4) providing food and habitat for wildlife
5) providing excellent forage for livestock
6) serving as a reservoir of useful herbs for potential medicinal plants
7) adding beauty and color to our lives.

All of the plants in this guide except Sericea Lespedeza (see page 64) are native, which means they were here prior to European settlement. Since that time numerous plants have been introduced to the Great Plains from other parts of the world. Currently about 21 percent of the species of flowering plants and ferns in Kansas are introduced plants. Some are relatively innocuous, blending into the prairie ecosystem. Others are troublesome invaders, threatening the ecological integrity of the prairie.

Grazing and burning are traditions necessary to maintain prairie diversity, but excessive fire or grazing can be detrimental. Invasive species, indiscriminant use of herbicides and habitat fragmentation are the primary threats to Flint Hills native prairies.

The prairie is our home. It is the basis of our state’s agricultural and ranching richness. It has much to offer and we still have much to learn about it. Enjoy and protect this irreplaceable legacy.

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Indian Grass Roots
Indian Grass root system
Ken Barnard

Species Accounts

Blue/Purple

Leadplant
Ground-plum Milk-vetch
Blue Wild-indigo
Wavy-leaf Thistle
Purple Prairie-clover
Dotted Gayfeather
Wild Bergamot Bee-balm
Bread-root Scurf-pea
Wild Alfalfa
Fringe-leaf Ruellia
Blue Sage
Ohio Spiderwort
Western Ironweed

Fringe-leaf Ruellia
Fringe-leaf Ruellia
  David Welfelt

Pink/Red

Illinois Tick-clover
Purple-coneflower
Rose Verbena
Slender Bush-clover
Cardinal Flower
Cat-claw Sensitive-briar
Pink Smartweed

Cardinal Flower
Cardinal Flower
David Welfelt
Yellow/Orange

Annual Broomweed
Butterfly Milkweed
Maximilian’s Sunflower
Long-beard Hawkweed
Grooved Flax
Carrot-leaf Wild Celery
Missouri Evening-primrose
Plains Ragwort
Nuttall’s Prairie-parsley
Compass Plant
Missouri Goldenrod

Annual Broomweed
Annual Broomweed
David Welfelt
White/Cream

Tuberous Indian-plantain
Heath Aster
Pale Poppy-mallow
New Jersey Tea
Plains Larkspur
Illinois Bundleflower
Wedge-leaf Draba
Flowering Spurge
Snow-on-the-mountain
Long-flower Butterfly-weed
American Licorice
Round-head Bush-clover
Showy Evening-primrose
Cobaea Beardtongue
Prairie Blue-eyed-grass
Narrow-leaf Bluet
Flax-leaf Stenosiphon
Nuttall’s Death-camas

Pale Poppy Mallow
Pale Poppy-mallow
Iralee Barnard

Green/Inconspicuous

Western Ragweed
White Sagewort
Green Antelopehorn

Green Antelopehorn
Green Antelopehorn
Jim Mason

Grasses

Big Bluestem
Switch Grass
Little Bluestem
Indian Grass
Prairie Cordgrass
Eastern Gamma Grass

Sedges

Invasive Plants
Many plants have been introduced to Kansas since the mid-1800s. Nearly 21 percent of the wild plant species growing in Kansas are considered introduced. Some of those species are invasive; aggressively competing with native plants, crowding them out and creating a monoculture.  In Kansas, one of the worst is Sericea Lespedeza.

Little Bluestem
Little Bluestem
Barry Raugust

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Questions or comments?  Send Email to Jim Mason Spidey
Or write us at: 
Great Plains Nature Center
6232 E. 29th Street North
Wichita, KS 67220-2200             Call:  316-683-5499            Fax:  316-688-9555