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Grasslands National Park of Canada

The Mixed Grass Prairie Ecosystem

The Frenchman River, bordered by shrubs, meanders its' way through the West Block of Grasslands National Park
The Frenchman River, bordered by shrubs, meanders its’ way through the West Block of Grasslands National Park.
© Parks Canada / Wayne Lynch, 1989

Water is one of the primary shapers of prairie ecosystems. Low precipitation in Grasslands National Park area influence many of the conditions that create prairies. Waterways such as the Frenchman River in the West Block and Rock Creek in the East Block add significantly to the biodiversity and are important habitats. The unique combinations of landscape and climate create niches for specially adapted plants, animals and endangered species.

 

 

 

 

Single stem of Green Needle Grass with awns protruding against a black background.
Single stem of Green Needle Grass with awns protruding against a black background.
© Parks Canada / James R. Page, 2001

Identify flora such as blue gramma grass, historically a favourite of the bison; needle-and-thread grass, whose sharp awns lend it's name; prickly pear cactus, that breathes only at night; and gumbo evening primrose, whose flowers change colour in 24 hours. The non-domination of any single species of flora and combinations of short and medium sized grasses illustrate the character of this ecosystem, and its importance in sustaining life of this planet.