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Prairie Grasslands


Prairie Grasslands


Grasslands
Grasslands
© Parks Canada

PRONGHORNS AND PRAIRIE DOGS

This natural region is often referred to in the past tense, in terms of what once was. It was once an ocean of grass, broken by wide wooded valleys and forest-clad hills. It was once Canada's richest wildlife region, reminiscent of the savannah country of East Africa. But we will never really know what it was like. Only the wind remains unchanged, blowing unceasingly across the sweeping plains.

THE LAND:

A vast tilted plain, the land rises gently until it ends abruptly at the foothills of the Rockies. The monotonous flatness is interrupted by weirdly eroded badlands, sand dunes, coulees, rocky canyons, potholes, hills and sweeping river valleys. This region rests on a thick mantle of rich, black soil that is cool and moist to the touch - some of the most fertile soils in the country. Within the fertile grasslands is "Palliser's Triangle", semi arid country considered unsuitable for agriculture or stock raising in the opinion of John Palliser, leader of a scientific expedition along the American boundary in 1857-1860.

VEGETATION:

Speargrass, wheatgrass, blue grama, rough fescue, bluebunch fescue, red fescue, nee-dlegrass, little blue-stem - grass is the single characteristic common to the mosaic of habitats making up this region.

Mixed prairie, dominated by speargrasses and wheatgrasses, is the most extensive grassland type in this region. Mixed Prairie, as its name implies, includes both tall and short grasses. Blue grama, a drought-resistent short grass, is important in dry sites.

Pairie Crocus
Prairie Crocus
© Parks Canada

River valleys and old drainage channels, important routes for the invasion of plant species that survived the last glaciation beyond the edge of the ice sheet, harbour a rich variety of trees and shrubs: oaks, American elm, cottonwood, Manitoba maple, and green ash, among others. Shallow depressions, some of which are periodically flooded, harbour communities of salt-resistent species, such as alkali grass and wild barley. The thousands of sloughs that characterize this region, ranging in area from a few square metres to several hectares, are dominated by tall sedges and grasses.


National Parks System Plan, 3rd Edition

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