The goal of the Prairie Roots Project is to help the public more clearly understand the important functions of native perennial roots in today’s rural and urban landscapes. To achieve this goal, prairie roots are produced and preserved for display in educational facilities across Iowa.
Hidden deep underground, the massive root systems of prairie plants often extend deeper into the soil than the stems that rise above it. En masse, these densely tangled roots provide a variety of ecosystem services. Strategic use of prairie plants in the landscape slows runoff, reduces soil loss, lessens the severity of flooding and rebuilds the structure of damaged soil. But like the roots themselves, these benefits often go unnoticed.
The Tallgrass Prairie Center uses 10-foot-deep pots to grow massive prairie root specimens. We have distributed them to over 30 nature centers, museums, schools and Natural Resource Conservation Service offices, and developed interpretive materials. We also produce life-size banners with plant top and root (approximately 14' long) and ship them all over the tallgrass region and beyond.