More than a region on a map, North America's vast grasslands are an enduring place in the American heart. Unfolding along and beyond the Mississippi River, the tallgrass prairie has entranced and inspired its natives and newcomers as well as American artists and writers from Willa Cather to Mark Twain. The Tallgrass Prairie is a new introduction to the astonishing beauty and biodiversity of these iconic American spaces.
Like a walking tour with a literate friend and expert, Cindy Crosby's The Tallgrass Prairie prepares travelers and armchair travelers for an adventure in the tallgrass. Crosby's engaging gateway assumes no prior knowledge of tallgrass landscapes, and she acquaints readers with the native plants they'll discover there. She demystifies botanic plant names and offers engaging mnemonic tips for mastering Latin names with verve and confidence. Visitors to the prairie will learn to identify native plants using the five senses to discover what makes each plant unique or memorable. In the summer, for example, the unusual square stem of cup plant, Silphium perfoliatum, sets it apart from its neighbors. And its distinctive leaf cups water after the rain.
A gifted raconteur, Crosby tells stories about how humankind has adopted the prairie as a grocery, an apothecary, and even as a shop for love charms. Rounding out this exceptional introduction are suggestions for experiencing the American prairie, including journaling techniques and sensory experiences, tips for preparing for a hike in tallgrass landscapes, ways to integrate native prairie plants into home landscapes (without upsetting the neighbors), and a wealth of resources for further exploration.
An instant classic in the tradition of American naturalist writing, The Tallgrass Prairie will delight not only scholars and policy makers, but guests to tallgrass prairie preserves, outdoors enthusiasts and gardeners, and readers interested in American ecosystems and native plants.
Cindy Crosby is a steward supervisor for the Schulenberg Prairie at the Morton Arboretum and a steward at Nachusa Grasslands, a Nature Conservancy site. She is a writer, teacher, and lecturer on the tallgrass prairie and nature conservation.
"We desperately need ambassadors to help us reach those who haven't yet been introduced to prairies and the many remarkable organisms who live in them. Cindy Crosby is just such an ambassador, and her The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction should help grow the legion of dedicated land stewards and supporters of our native grasslands."
– Chris Helzer, author of The Prairie Ecologist blog and director of science, Nebraska program, The Nature Conservancy
"For years, I have waited for a book like this! Here, at last, is a beautifully written, informative, and personally engaging introduction for those who are just discovering the beauty of the prairies. Like the tallgrass itself, these pages are full of marvels that engage, at once, the intellect, the senses, and the collective capacity for wonder. It is truly a gift to us all."
– John T. Price, author of Daddy Long Legs: The Natural Education of a Father and editor of The Tallgrass Prairie Reader
"Cindy Crosby is extremely knowledgeable about the prairie, and she also adores it. She is not only a skilled naturalist but also a sensitive writer. This unique combination gives The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction a powerful language that is both direct and lyrical, full of insightful practical advice, engaging storytelling, aesthetic splendor, and even spiritual inspiration."
– Thomas Dean, senior presidential writer/editor and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Iowa, editor of The Grace of Grass and Water, and author of Under a Midland Sky
"Both timeless and timely, The Tallgrass Prairie is an excellent gateway into the field of tallgrass prairie conservation, restoration, and appreciation. It's a 'call to arms' to value and protect prairie ecosystems."
– Emily Yates, Chicago Botanic Garden
"The work is readable, factual, instructive, engaging [...] Recommended."
"Part field guide and part natural history, Cindy Crosby's new work is a remarkably engaging introduction to the tallgrass prairie. Her analysis of the prairie's ecology, and her reflections on its history, are deftly woven together by a delightfully personal narrative voice, which opens the book to a wide readership."
– Tom Montgomery Fate, author of Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father's Search for the Wild
"Crosby provides broad array of basic information about the tallgrass prairie from its origin to how to plant a prairie in your backyard. Included are a sampling of the plants and animals, how to collect seed, prescribed fire and what to wear on a prairie walk. While intended for the budding prairie novice, those with background in prairie will also find it interesting. I have been roaming and studying prairies for more than fifty years and I learned a few things."
– Daryl Smith, professor of biology, prairie advocate, and founder of the Tallgrass Prairie Center, University of Northern Iowa
"The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction is a warm welcome to an amazing landscape. Although written for the newcomer, it reminds me of the great joy I felt as the as the marvelous puzzle of prairie slowly unfolded in my life. Ms. Crosby writes with joy and astonishment."
– Bernie Buchholz, president, Friends of Nachusa Grasslands
"A fine introduction to the prairie that is fun to read."
– Bill Kleiman, project director, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy
"When I started as a volunteer, I had little experience doing prairie restoration. I had many questions about restoring prairie, including basic concepts about prairie. Cindy Crosby has put together the prairie primer I wish I had. This book should be given to all volunteers, whether new or experienced!"
– John Heneghan, Illinois prairie steward
"A fine, and much needed, primer to the whys, whats, and ways of prairie and prairie restoration – I plan on giving this book to many people over the years to come."
– Susan Kleiman, environmental educator, Byron Forest Preserve