The Badlands have two basic terrain features: a wasteland of gravel-filled gullies and stony ridges, and prairie. As prairies are virtually flat grasslands, the contrast between the two create an aspect of stark beauty for which the Badlands Park is known. However, when it comes to flora and fauna, most of it consists of the prairie grasses and the animals that feed on it, making a general familiarity with the grasses of the Badlands useful for any nature watchers who go there.
The Badlands National Park is home to two different types of peppergrass (Lepidium): clasping and ordinary. The plant is also sometimes called pepperweed. These are part of the mustard family. It certainly is a weedy plant, is highly invasive, and in prairies they are prone to drying up and contributing to tumbleweeds.
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) is a perennial plant and sometimes thought to be a wildflower.
Agropyron, Dactylis and Buchloe
Agropyron is a substantial genus of grasses, and several examples are present in the park. This includes five different types of wheatgrass, quackgrass and three different types of bluestems. These are tall, hardy grasses that are common throughout the park, and make excellent grazing stock for animals. Other grasses present in the park that are good for grazing animals are cocksfoot grass (Dactylis glomerata) and the famous buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides).
Distichlis, Oryzopsis, Panicum
Inland saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) is a familiar site, as it is found almost everywhere in North America, including the Badlands. Also present is the bunchgrass species called Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides), which thrives in the desert shrub country and ponderosa pine lots of the park. If there is sagebrush or ponderosa pine around, Indian ricegrass will be there too. There are also the huge, 3 to 6 foot tall growths of witchgrass (Panicum capillare).
An example of prairie grass is the prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata). This might seem strange, since cordgrass usually grows in coastal marshes, but there is this variety that thrives on the more arid prairie. It is the only species in the park that bears the sobriquet "prairie" in its common name.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.