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Ashy sunflower (Helianthus mollis) grows along the 1.5-mile Gayfeather Trail in the Regal Prairie Natural Area located in Prairie State Park. The park, located near Liberal, Mo. is Missouri’s largest remaining tallgrass prairie. The park’s nearly 4,000 acres is home to bison and elk. Panoramic hillsides of wildflowers such as prairie blazing star, sunflowers, and Indian paintbrush provide a canvas of color. In the fall, prairie grass such as big bluestem and Indian grass may tower as high as 8 feet tall.
Tallgrass prairie once covered more than 13 million acres of Missouri’s landscape. Today, less than one percent remains. The prairie at Prairie State Park remains because the rocky land was too difficult to plow, which protected it from being farmed. Hiking, animal viewing, camping, birdwatching, and photography are some of the activities that the park affords.
The Regal Prairie Natural Area is a 240-acre state natural area within the park that is especially noted for its wildflower display. The Nature Conservancy and the Missouri Prairie Foundation provided funding for the purchase of much of the park’s acreage. The area was dedicated as a state park in 1982.
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