What is Native Prairie?

What is Native Prairie

Native prairie ecosystems have been shaped by climate, soils, grazing and fire. Low moisture, frequent winds and extreme temperatures create an environment suited to grasses and other low-growing plants. Trees and shrubs persist only where micro-climates offer additional water, such as along rivers or on north-facing coulee slopes.

grassland_gerry haekel

The Grassland Natural Region


Native prairie ecosystems are found in the Grassland Natural Region of Alberta. While native prairie often refers to grasslands, there are other important pieces of the prairie ecosystem, such as badlands, wetlands, streams, ponds, coulees and river valleys.

The Grassland Natural Region is further divided into four sub-regions based on climate, soil and vegetation – Dry Mixed Grassland, Mixed Grassland, Foothills Fescue and Northern Fescue.



Alberta Environment and Parks  provides information on each of these sub-regions.

To find out more about native prairie, visit the Prairie Conservation Forum’s website.

Identifying Prairie Plants

There are numerous resources available to help with identifying native prairie plants:


Common Coulee Plants – Click to download


Common Plants of the Western Rangelands:

Volume 1 – Grasses and Grass-like Species

Volume 2 – Forbs

Available from:

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

7000-113 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
T6H 5T6
1-800-292-5697 or 780-427-0391


A Field Guide to Common Riparian Plants of Alberta

Available from Cows and Fish
Lethbridge, Alberta

www.cowsandfish.orgclick here to download your free copy online

Dotted Blazingstar

Dotted Blazingstar

June Grass

June Grass

Thorny Buffaloberry

Thorny Buffaloberry