Native Wildflower and Prairie Grass Identification: Learning Our Land

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Kongs
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The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their homestead-building adventure unfolds.

I know I wrote last week that we would continue our water well posts, but we couldn’t handle not writing about the fun time we had a couple of weeks ago doing some plant identification. A friend and fellow editor at the magazine came over and we walked our pasture, camera in hand. We examined the flowers and grasses, and we took photos — so many photos — to create a photo album. Not all the photos are that great, as we went out in early afternoon under a bright, harsh sun. We did try to include hands in some of the images to help with scale, so that identifying the blooms would be easier. Our guidebooks of choice for identifying the plants we didn’t know from the photos we took are Wildflowers and Grasses of Kansas and Kansas Wildflowers and Weeds, which are titles that we highly recommend if you’re in need of this type of guidebook.

Our pasture is dominated by brome, and we have some locust moving in from the wooded areas on the north and south ends of the pasture. However, we were heartened by the number of native prairie plants that were growing, including the Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) shown at the top of this post. I was most excited to see the one sizable patch of big bluestem (Andropgon geradrii).

We now have a mental picture of a walking route we can take in the coming weeks to help the native grasses and forbs spread their seed across our pasture. We’re working out a plan to drill/seed the entire pasture with native grass and wildflower seed, likely preceded by an early spring burn, to help convert the pasture back to native grasses over time. Below are a few more shots of the prairie wildflowers we identified, for your viewing pleasure. Next week, we’ll get back to water, wells and plumbing. Promise.


Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis)

Ironweed (Veronia Schreb.)

Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)

Next in the series: Pressure Tank, Whole-House Water Filter and Water Softener: How Our Water Well Works, Part 2
Previously in the series:
Water Well Drilling: How Our Well Works, Part 1

­­­Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can connect directly with Jennifer and Tyler by leaving a comment below!

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