Along with forests, deserts, and tundra, grasslands comprise one of the basic biome types. Grasslands are some of the most productive ecosystems on earth, and the tallgrass prairie is one of the most productive types of grasslands.
Two examples of a tallgrass prairie ecosystem can be found in Kansas, a third in Iowa, and another in Oklahoma. The Konza Prairie is an 8,616-acre preserve near Manhattan, Kansas and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a recent addition to the National Park System near Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is located near Prairie City, Iowa, and the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is near Pawhuska, Oklahoma. These are remnants of an ecosystem which once extended from Illinois northwest to the Dakotas and south to Texas. While grasses are the dominant plants on the prairie, wildflowers, shrubs and trees add variety and color to the landscape. The dominant grasses on the prairie are Andropogon gerdardii (big bluestem), Sorgashastrum nutans (Indian grass), and Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem).
Konza Prairie: A Tallgrass Natural History, by O. J. Reichman, is a great source book for information on the Konza site and the tallgrass prairie in general. In the discussion of the grassland ecosystem on pages 71 to 76, Reichman points out many of the species that may be found. To help visualize the plants and animals mentioned, see this illustrated companion of the book.