Dry prairie

dry prairie on sloping hillside

Dry prairies occur scattered throughout the prairie region of western and southern Minnesota, usually on gravelly or sandy hills, ridge-tops or dunes. The soils have low water-holding capacity, and will be dry most of the year, even if rainfall is normal.

The vegetation of dry prairies is typically shorter and sparser than mesic prairies. But like all prairies, dry prairies are dominated by native grasses, such as big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha). They will also have abundant wildflowers such as pasque flower (Pulsatilla patens ssp. multifida ), silky aster (Symphyotrichum sericeum), and prairie smoke (Geum triflorum).

Dry prairies are fire-dependent, and without frequent fire would eventually be overgrown by trees and shrubs. The prairie grasses and wildflowers are adapted to fire, and resprout vigorously.

Most plants in dry prairies are less than three feet tall, and need direct sunlight to thrive. Because moisture is usually limited, the plants will often be widely spaced with patches of bare soil between, but the roots are typically dense and very efficient at catching every drop of rain.