Grasses are a very important component of the prairie ecosystem. Many things in the prairie rely on different grass species for various reasons.
There are all kinds of grasses in prairies including short, medium and tall grasses. Some of these grasses overlap in their range and are found in shortgrass prairie, mixed-grass prairie and tallgrass prairie ecosystems. Most grasses are found in the Poaceae plant family. However they can be very different due to their growth form, inflorescence type and shape.
Grasses in the prairie are adapted to fire. Fire keeps woody species from encroaching into the grassland and shifting it to a woodland ecosystem.
Prairie grasses commonly are found growing in mollisols, one of the most nutrient rich soil types. These soils develop under prairies due to high amounts of organic matter. The root systems help reduce the rate of leaching, which keeps the nutrients readily available for plant growth.
Bison and cattle forage on grass, and are attracted to the areas that have been recently burned. Fresh new grass is very desirable for these grazers and provides them high nutrition content.