The Prairie Center


Botantist and Environmentalist Frank Norman displays a sumac shrub on a recent nature walk at The Prairie Center in Olathe, Kansas. Smooth Sumac is a native shrub that is widespread across the country.


October is a favorite time of year in the Midwest.  It’s not too hot, there’s a crisp feel to the air, and a tangy fragrance wafts in the wind.   This smoke-tinged perfume could be just the dying breath of trees as they shed their leaves and hunker down for winter, but it brings back sweet memories of apple harvests, and trick-or-treating and shuffling in the leaves on the walk home from elementary school.  (On the way to school, I trudged rather than shuffled through the leaves.)

I’ve lived in the Kansas City area for most of my life, but I’m still discovering its treasures.  One is the Prairie Center in Olathe, Kansas. On Oct. 10, some friends, family members and I joined two dozen others on a stroll through part of the center’s 300 acres.  Frank Norman of Norman Ecological Consulting led the walk, which focused on native medicinal prairie plants.  Sue Holcomb of Grasslands Heritage Foundation also pointed out many of the native plants in the prairie preserve, which includes 45 acres of virgin prairie. Virgin prairie means that the land was never plowed, which is very rare to find.  Only five percent of the original tallgrass prairie remains today in the United States.



The Downy Gentian (Gentiana puberulenta) is a beautiful, rare find. It's small, but because of its brilliant blue color, it's easy to spot if you're lucky enough to find some.



The partridge pea (Cassia chamecrista) is a bright spot among the browning fall grasses at the Olathe Prairie Center.



In Autumn, sunflowers tower above the asters and other plants at the Prairie Center in Olathe.



Milkweed pods and willow-leaf purple aster at the Prairie Center in Olathe.


Here’s a post I wrote in the summer of 2008 about the Kansas City Symphony’s performance in the Flint Hills: Kansas City Symphony in the Flint Hills.

To learn more, click on these links.

Olathe Prairie Center

Grassland Heritage Foundation.

Dennis Toll has stopped blogging here, but the blog still contains a lot of information about the prairie, as well as useful links.

Flint Hills, Tall Grass



Filed under Biology, Conservation, Education, Environment, History, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Nature, Photography, Science

5 responses to “The Prairie Center

  1. How is Kansas? Amazing and wonderful photos of birds and flowers.

    My blog, flowers and more:


  2. I could almost smell the air as I read your post! October is such a great month in Kansas.


  3. Thanks for sparing me the sight of ragweed. I always loved autumn, but my allergies raged out of control until the first frost. It’s going to be in the 80s today here in Southern California. I would love to be able to shuffle or trudge through autumn leaves. We usually have some as we’re close to the mountains, but so far the colors have not turned. Maybe in December!


  4. Dennis Toll

    Thanks for the mention. I have started writing again for flinthillstallgrass. Sorry to have been absent for too long.


  5. In September Spawn and I participated in the Monarch Migration tagging in our area, and our tagging area looked very much like the scene in the photo of the sunflowers above. When we got home our shoes were positively full of mud, seeds, and (even after a thorough washing, in the washing machine, in hot water) bugs.

    It was hot, buggy, and itchy, and I would gladly do it all over again at the behest of my junior naturalist.


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