Prairie Collage
Illinois, “The Prairie State.” The phrase evokes images of broad, unbroken landscapes, sweeping vistas, and a dazzling display of wildflowers and tallgrass that once covered most of the state. Today, roads, buildings, and agricultural fields have changed the prairie into a source of economic wealth for our society, and less than one hundredth of one percent of the original prairie remains in Illinois. Glimpses of the past, however, are revealed as one drives down the highways or walks the country roads of this state. The flat to rolling land, a defining characteristic of most of the state, echoes the past, when the vast, treeless expanse of prairie so impressed early explorers. Big bluestem, the state grass, and prairie wildflowers appear occasionally at the edges of fields and roads, and in small, uncultivated patches of land. The future of the prairie landscape lies with those who will decide how to preserve and restore it, carefully striking a balance between what once was and the needs of modern society.

This web exhibit is about prairies, prairie development, and the persistence of prairie in the state of Illinois. The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is the focus of discussion. The restoration of tallgrass prairie is the goal of scientists, volunteers, land managers, and a society that is willing to make the commitment to heal and restore the land. Many of the native elements of the tallgrass prairie exist at Midewin, and the ongoing restoration at the site represents our nation’s commitment to the restoration of one of this country’s most impressive ecosystems.

Created: January 15, 1999
Copyright: Openlands Project and Illinois State Museum Society

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