At the time of European settlement, tallgrass prairie was the iconic landscape in much of the Upper Midwest. Although its extent has been drastically reduced, intact prairie remnants exist, prairie species persist along roadsides, and interest in prairie reconstruction has increased. The basic prairie matrix is formed by grasses, yet their diversity and beauty are often underappreciated because their flowering structures are highly reduced to aid in wind pollination. This much-needed addition to Iowa's popular series of laminated guides – the twenty-sixth in the series – illustrates fifty-five grass species characteristic of or commonly found on prairies of the Upper Midwest states of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
The authors have organised species into groups by their most easily noted field characteristics. Are the flowering heads branched or unbranched? Are the branches dense, narrow, or fingerlike? For each species, its native or exotic status is followed by the months of flowering, abundance, general habitat, height, diagnostic features, geographic range, and, if relevant, threatened or endangered status.
Even amateur naturalists can identify big and little bluestem and prairie dropseed in the field, but both professional and amateur naturalists find certain grasses harder to identify, especially the less common or rare species such as cluster fescue and sand reedgrass. The photographs and descriptions in Grasses in Your Pocket will be an invaluable reference for outdoor expeditions in midwestern grasslands.
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Artist and botanical illustrator Anna Gardner (1958-2006), BS in biological/pre-medical illustration and MS in integrated graduate studies at Iowa State University, created and illustrated the Grasses of Iowa website.
Michael Hurst, BS in horticulture from Iowa State University, works as a horticulturist and landscaper.
Deborah Lewis is the curator of the Ada Hayden Herbarium in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University. She focuses on the New World species of Lindernia, false pimpernel, as well as the flora of Iowa.
Lynn Clark is the director of the Ada Hayden Herbarium in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University. Her research interests focus primarily on the systematics and morphology of grasses, in particular the woody bamboos.