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As anyone who lives in the Palouse knows, this landscape is not just strikingly beautiful; it is also useful. Capable of producing impressive yields of grains and legumes, the Palouse has become one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.
What makes these impressive harvests possible?
The answer is found in the region’s fertile soils. The original Palouse Prairie vegetation that covered these hills included grasses and an impressive array of wildflowers. The roots of Palouse prairie plants, like arrowleaf balsamroot and bluebunch wheatgrass, extend several feet underground. When their extensive root systems decay, the Palouse prairie plants add organic matter to the soil, improving its texture and fertility.
So, in a very real sense, the Palouse Prairie plants are what made it possible for people to produce high yields of crops in this landscape. For this reason they are an important legacy of the natural heritage that sustains rural, agricultural lifestyles in our region.
Unfortunately, very few examples of Palouse Prairie remain, which is why conservation of Palouse Prairie remnants is one of our highest priorities.