Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist 48: 102–105. December 2016


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society, 2016. Used by permission.


Black Hills Montane Grassland is a rare and endangered plant community endemic to the Black Hills of western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming. It is restricted to higher elevations on the Limestone Plateau in the western part of the uplift. Early visitors to the Black Hills wrote glowing reports of flower-filled grasslands on the Limestone Plateau. Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and his soldiers reveled in lush grass, and decorated the headgear of their horses with flowers (Custer 1875). Expedition botanist A. B. Donaldson “estimated the number of flowers in bloom in Floral Valley at 50, while an equal number of varieties had bloomed, or were yet to bloom” (Ludlow 1875). Donaldson’s Black Hills plant collection was sent to J.M. Coulter, who compiled a species list for the expedition’s final report (Ludlow 1875). However there is no indication which species were collected from the flower-filled grasslands. In 1892, botanist Per A. Rydberg found the grasslands of the “Limestone District” reminiscent of Sweden, his homeland: “meadows with the knee-deep grass, and the flowers were in greater profusion and greater variety of color than I have seen elsewhere in America.” He listed trees, shrubs, and notable forbs of the Limestone District, but no species specific to the meadows (Rydberg 1896). Thus, the original composition of these grasslands is unknown, though by the time of the first species lists, non-native plants were abundant.