tallgrass prairie

The tallgrass prairie, extending from central Illinois through Iowa and Missouri into the eastern Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma— and benefited with more rainfall than the shortgrass prairie—was named after its upright bluestem, which can reach heights of six feet (switch and other shorter grasses form an intermediate layer, grama its base), causing travelers even on horseback sometimes to get lost. The drama of immigrant entry into its oceanic expanse—thus “prairie schooners,” a schooner a sailing ship—is suggested in Giants in the Earth, by O. E. Rolvaag: “Bright, clear sky over a plain so wide that the rim of the heavens cut down on it around the entire horizon . . . ‘Tish-ah!’ said the grass . . . It bent resiliently under the trampling feet; it did not break, but complained aloud every time . . . ‘Tish-ah, tish-ah!’ it cried, and rose up in surprise to look at this rough, hard thing that had crushed it to the ground so rudely, then moved on.”

Larry Woiwode