Swaying grasses blown by a gentle wind create a fascinating motion on the prairie; the grasses seem to move in waves. Seeing these wind-caused waves prompted early travelers to call the prairie a "sea of grass".
The prairie conjures many images. For people living on the prairie, there is no sight equal to the sweeping view of a land stretcing for miles under a towering sky. To Stephen Long, crossing the prairie in 1820, it was "a region of hopeless and irreclaimable sterility."
This sea of grass or prairie is very much like an ocean. It contains many habitats, with numerous species of plants.
Wind Cave National Park is part of this sea of grass. It is also part of the Black Hills. It is in a meeting zone, a mixed-grass prairie that combines many of the features of the eastern tall-grass prairie and the western short-grass prairie. It is a place where the mountains touch the plains.
Because it is a meeting zone or an ecotone, Wind Cave National Park has many different vegetative, or plant, communities. According to The Nature Conservancy these communities are noteworthy because of their health and diversity. They have identified 16 exemplary vegetative sites within the Black Hills. Nine of those sites are within Wind Cave National Park. These sites are rated on their diversity and management plans. The park itself is recognized as an exemplary site because of the quality and diversity of plant communites found here and the natural way they are managed.