Konza Prairie

A Tallgrass Natural History

O. J. Reichman

Slightly over a century ago, the tallgrass prairie in North America stretched over most of what is now Iowa, Illinois, southern Minnesota, northern Missouri, and the eastern edges of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Today, only a few scattered patches—less than one percent—remain of the endless, flat, silent land that greeted the pioneers and finally fell to their plows. Konza, an area of over 8,600 acres in the Flint Hills in Kansas, is the largest remaining undisturbed tract of tallgrass prairie in the nation.

Konza Prairie is the extraordinary and often lyrical story of this tallgrass ecosystem. Biologist O.J. Reichman, a compelling writer, vividly portrays this often poorly understood environment as a living laboratory where organisms—from monarch butterflies to the striking big bluestem grass itself—interact with the physical world of the prairie.

“Eminently readable. . . . Highly recommended for both the layperson and the student interested in learning something of the history of this vanishing resource.”


“Through fascinating descriptions the prairie comes alive. At the same time the harshness, subtlety, and beauty are all conveyed in the text and line drawings”

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In separate chapters, Reichman provides an absorbing natural-history introduction to such topics as the tallgrass ecosystem; the dynamic geological processes which created the seemingly placid prairie; and the many inhabitants of the prairie, from plants and insects to birds, reptiles, and mammals. Interspersed with this central text are informative sections (set off by italics) about the processes taking place, among them Evolution, the role of photosynthesis; fire; patterns of weather; and competition among organisms. Finally, Reichman describes what is being done to preserve the prairie and provides an extensive listing of the common and scientific names of organisms mentioned in the text.

Beautifully written and illustrated with color photographs, line drawings, and maps, Konza Prairie is an excellent introduction to a little-known ecosystem—and is superb national history.

About the Author

O. J. Reichman is ecology program director at the National Science Foundation. He has taught at Kansas State University and is the coauthor of "Museum Backroom," a PBS documentary for which he won an Emmy.