Konza PrairieStunning, isn’t it? The Konza Prairie near Manhattan, Kansas, gives us a glimpse of the past. This is what settlers of European descent would have seen. I am awed by its beauty, shown here in late spring.

I must admit: I’m glad the soil was too shallow and rock for the plow, thus preserving this unique ecology of grasses (with deep, deep roots penetrating limestone), shrubs, and wildflowers, along with the galley forest near the waterways.

Wild prairie rose

Wild prairie rose

But I am a 21st century nature lover. If food were not a matter of going to a grocery store or a restaurant, would I still be enamored with this sight? It’s easy to forget our ancestors struggled for food. The line between starvation and plenty depended on the rain coming at the right times, the cattle staying well fed and healthy, and the grasshoppers not devastating the crops.

We and our ancestors would see a similar landscape, but how we felt about it could be very different.


A type of verbena

Post-script: If you’re in Manhattan, Kansas, do see the Konza. It is unique in the truest sense of the word. And do yourself a favor and visit the Flint Hills Discovery Center to learn about the history and the science.

Photos by Randy Rendfeld