Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
It’s late summer and the Iowa prairie is flourishing with a dazzling array of life and color.
Although impossible for contemporary Iowans to fathom the endless, horizon to horizon prairie vistas that greeted European immigrants as they rushed westward into Iowa during the 1830s and 1840s, today’s grassland remnants and ongoing prairie restorations do provide the tiniest hint of what once was.
But the Iowa prairie is not just about native plant life — never was. In addition to its diverse flora, the tallgrass prairie is also home to countless insects, birds, mammals — all living their lives in interdependent complexity.
Grasshoppers and meadow voles eat prairie plants and seeds; prairie birdlife consumes some of the hoppers while, from high above, soaring red-tails scan for voles. Prairie life exists in an endless cycle. Although many of the grassland’s original components have long since vanished under the pressures of advancing civilization, others have continued to survive into the Age of Technology.
And even though they’re far from complete these days, Iowa’s grassland remnants provide a living glimpse to our prairie heritage. Attached are photos illustrating just a few of the things I find interesting about the summer prairie.