Blooming prairie: Prairies are spectacular, especially in early July, with waves of windblown grasses and colorful wildflowers.

Anyone having the opportunity to visit a prairie now (Schaefer Prairie in McLeod County, Linnaeus Arboretum at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, or the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska) will see butterfly weed. It is one of the brightest and most conspicuous of the northern wildflowers. Both purple and white prairie clovers are in bloom. Lead plant has flowers in dense violet spikes and compound gray leaves. Also, look for oxeye, black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower; all have showy flowers.

A prairie is defined as a natural grassland composed of native perennial grasses and herbaceous plants, many of which are truly beautiful wildflowers.

Before European settlers arrived in what is now Minnesota, the prairie covered more than one-third of the area. That was 18 million acres of prairie that stretched across the state from the northwest to the southeast.

It didn’t take long to find out that fertile prairie soil grew good farm crops, so most of the prairie was plowed.