A Field Guide to the Prairie

 

Glossary

Adaptations
The ability of a species to survive in a particular ecological niche, especially because of alterations of form or behavior brought about through natural selection.

Amphibian
Any cold-blooded vertebrate of the class Amphibia, comprising frogs and toads, newts and salamanders, and caecilians, the larvae being typically aquatic, breathing by gills, and the adults being typically semiterrestrial, breathing by lungs and through the moist, glandular skin.

Annual
A plant that completes its growth in one year

Awn
A bristlelike appendage of a plant, commonly seen on grasses.

Biodiversity
The number of different species in a given habitat.

Biome
A living community characterized by distinctive plant and animal species and maintained under the climatic conditions of the region.

Blade
The leaf of a plant

Carapace
Shell that covers the top (dorsal) of the turtle

Carnivore
An organism that eats animals

Carrion
Dead animals

Climate
The generally dominant weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years.

Coniferous
A plant producing naked seeds in cones like fir, pine, spruce, etc. Deciduous-a plant that sheds leaves every year

Conservation
Preservation of resources in order to protect the natural world.

Crepuscular
Active at both dusk and dawn

Deciduous
A plant that sheds leaves every year

Diversity
The number of species in a given habitat.

Dormant
A state of temporary inactivity and heart rate decrease, will periodically arise during warm periods

Drought
Long periods of time when little or no rain falls.

Dry Prairies
These occur on slopes and well-drained uplands, and once occupied vast areas, especially in the southern and western portions of the tallgrass region. These prairies are often interspersed with areas of mesic prairie in valleys.

Ecosystem
A collection of plant and animal communitites interacting with each other in the physical environment.

Exotic or Non-native
Of foreign origin or character; not native; introduced to a place.

Forbs
A forb is not shaped like a grass, tree or bush. Like grasses, forbs can survive long periods without water. Grasses and forbs of the prairie have long roots so they can absorb a lot of water. Leaves of forbs are wider than those of grasses. The most common prarie forbs are wildflowers.

Frogs
Amphibians with moist skin, have long legs for jumping, and live in wet habitats

Grass
Any plant of the family Gramineae or Poaceae, having jointed stems, sheathing leaves, and seed-like grains.

Gregarious
Living in flocks or herds

Herb
A flowering plant whose stem above ground does not become woody. Also a name for any plant that is used medicinally or as a spice.

Herpetology
The branch of zoology dealing with reptiles and amphibians.

Herps
Reptiles and Amphibians.

Hibernate
A deep state of uninterrupted sleep and inactivity

Hill Prairies
These are a special variant of dry prairie. These prairies occur at the tops of hills, bluffs, and ridges, and are often on steep slopes. Hill prairies are excessively drained, with immediate absorption or drainage of rainfall, and often have droughty growing conditions.

Indigenous
Originating in and characteristic of a particular region or country; native.

Leached
The process by which nutrients are removed from soil.

Mammals
A class of vertebrates characterized by: bodies covered with hair, mammary glands, and bear live young.

Mesic Prairies
These occur on sites that are relatively well drained, but have high moisture available through most of the growing season. This results from a combination of factors, including rainfall, location in the landscape, and soil depth and type. Mesic prairies are often described as "lush" or "luxuriant." They are among the most threatened of our prairies, because most of them were converted for agricultural use in the last century.

Mima Mounds
All toad-power, wind and a little frost action for good luck - and a pinch of gopher. Pocket gophers play an initiating role in mound construction, because it is their burrowing that loosens the dirt enough for toads to subsequently move it around. They are called Mima mounds because they are similar in shape to burial mounds made by the Mima Indians of Washington State.

Mixed Grass Prairie
Areas that receive between 10-20 inches of precipitation per year and where soils are sandy or very-well drained.

Native
Animals and plants originating naturally in a particular region.

Nocturnal
Active at night

Omnivore
Eats plants and animals

Overwinter
Spend the winter

Perennial
Having a life cycle of more than 2 years.

Pistil
One of the four basic parts of a flower, the central structure around which are arranged the stamens, the petals, and the sepals. The pistil is usually called the female reproductive organ of a flowering plant, although the actual reproductive structures are microscopic. The pistil has a bulbous base (the ovary) containing the ovules, which develop into seeds after fertilization of egg cell(s) in the ovule.

Plastron
The shell under (ventral) a turtle's body

Prairie
A prairie is an open grassland. It occurs in relatively dry climates where precipitation is too low to support trees. There are many kinds of prairies, each characterized by the type of plants growing there. The grasses and wildflowers of some prairies may be small and dense, while other prairies may be sparsely covered with short grassland species. These differences are due primarily to soil types and moisture availablilty.

Predator
A living thing that kills and eats others.

Raptor
Bird of prey, such as osprey, hawk, eagle, falcon and owl.

Reptile
Any cold-blooded vertebrate of the class Reptilia, comprising the turtles, snakes, lizards, crocodilians, amphisbaenians, tuatara, and various extinct members including the dinosaurs.

Restoration
A return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition.

Rodentia
Order of gnawing or nibbling mammals including the mice, squirrels, beavers

Sand Prairies
These occur in areas of extensive sand deposits. These prairies range from wet depressions along the Great Lakes to dry hills in the Great Plains. Sand areas are usually excessively drained and leached, resulting in nutrient-poor soils.

Savannas
In the tallgrass region, savannas are communities with scattered trees and a well-developed ground cover of grasses and wildfires. Typical savanna trees include Bur and Black Oaks in the northern regions, and Black and Post Oaks in the southern regions.

Seat patch
Thin skin on the lower surface of a toad's body that allows them to absorb water.

Shortgrass Prairie
Areas that receive between 12-15 inches of precipitation per year and where evaporation rates are high.

Solitary
Alone, without companions

Stamen
One of the four basic parts of a flower. The stamen (microsporophyll), is often called the flower's male reproductive organ. It is typically located between the central pistil and the surrounding petals. A stamen consists of a slender stalk (the filament) tipped by a usually bilobed sac (the anther) in which microspores develop as pollen grains.

Tallgrass Prairie
Areas that receive more than 20 inches of precipitation per year and have loamy or clay-based soils. Clay is a natural earthy materials and loam is a rich soil consisting of clay, sand, silt, and organic matter.

Terrestrial
Living on or in the ground

Territorial
Behavior of an animal defending an area against intruders

Toads
Amphibians that have dry, warty skin, shorter legs than frogs, and are more likely to live in terrestrial habitats

Wet Prairies
These are found in sites with saturated soils through much of the growing season. There is often abundant standing water. Soils range from leached sand and gravel to organic peat and muck.

Vegetation
All the plants or plant life of a place, taken as a whole: the vegetation of the Red River valley.

Ungulate
Hoofed animals like cows, deer, bison, etc.

Upland
Land or an area of land lying above the level where water flows or where flooding occurs.

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