Sandsage prairie: floristics, structure, and dynamics of a Great Plains plant community


  • James H. Locklear Lauritzen Gardens



Sandsage prairie is a shrub-steppe ecological association unique to the Great Plains of North America in which sand sagebrush, Artemisia filifolia, is the dominant and diagnostic element. This paper presents the first comprehensive account of the floristics, community structure, and vegetation dynamics of sandsage prairie throughout its distribution. Sandsage prairie occurs in discontinuous tracts throughout western parts of the central and southern Great Plains in association with dune fields and other areas of sand habitat. The most conspicuous element of the vegetation is shrub-steppe dominated by Artemisia filifolia with a moderate to dense herbaceous layer dominated by perennial grasses. The relative density of Artemisia filifolia canopy cover in the landscape can range from 10% to 50% and is influenced by topographic gradient, climatic variability, fire history, grazing history, and past range management practices. Occurring in mosaic with the shrub-steppe component of sandsage prairie are intergrading but distinct assemblages of herbaceous species tied to varying degrees of disturbance and stabilization within the dune field. A total of 119 plant taxa in 33 families are characteristic of sandsage prairie in the Great Plains, with Poaceae, Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and Onagraceae the largest families (in descending order). There is a pronounced northsouth gradient to the associated flora, with 34 species (29% of the total) being restricted to or most prevalent in either northern or southern stands of sandsage prairie. Sandsage prairie occurs in highly dynamic habitat subject to a host of natural disturbance factors and as a consequence exhibits a high level of heterogeneity in community structure with frequent shifts in species composition and dominance.


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How to Cite

Locklear, J. H. (2019). Sandsage prairie: floristics, structure, and dynamics of a Great Plains plant community. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, 13(1), 253–278.