Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2006


Published in GREAT PLAINS RESEARCH 16:2 (Fall 2006). Copyright © 2006 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


The Elemental Prairie provides a general discussion of the Great Plains and the tallgrass prairie for the general reader. Its botanically accurate plant drawings render a beautiful and artistic view into prairie plants.

George Olson writes a compelling introduction about "Prairie Elements," painting a graphic verbal description about his trip into the prairie with noted prairie author John Madson. The introduction draws readers into the book and prepares them for John Madson's essay "The Running Country," an eloquent portrayal of the history of the tallgrass prairie. We are led into the hearts and minds of the pioneers who crossed the immense expanse of the Great Plains. Madson's descriptions of prairie plants help us visualize how the Great Plains looked prior to settlement, stirring us to see not only the allure of the prairies, but also the solitude and sometimes the loneliness. Madson mixes his personal experiences with current scientific theory of the formation of the prairies across the region, offering a way of seeing how the present fits into the past.