Native prairie grassland once covered 40,000 acres of central Nassau County on Long Island. The grassland, home to scores of plant, bird and butterfly species, has been described as “the only true prairie east of the Allegheny Mountains.”

Due to commercial development, only a few acres of Long Island’s prairie—known as the Hempstead Plains—remain today.

This is a soothing, late summer glimpse of what the prairie might have looked like:

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You can visit this beautiful meadow, modeled on the Hempstead Plains, at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. The meadow is in the Garden’s recently expanded Native Flora Garden.

Brooklyn, as is sometimes forgotten, is part of Long Island.

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Native wildflowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Photo: Sarah Crean

Visit the Long Island Prairie

wildflowers bbg 2Even better, you can visit an existing section of the Hempstead Plains on the campus of Nassau Community College. There you can explore some of the last remnants of the Long Island prairie, which apparently developed south of a terminal moraine left behind by the last Ice Age.

The site is “highly ecologically and historically significant,” says the non-profit that is restoring the area.

“The Hempstead Plains supports populations of federally endangered and globally rare plants among its 250 different kinds of vegetation as well as several plant species that are now considered rare in New York State.

It represents one of the most rapidly vanishing habitats in the world, along with scores of birds, butterflies, and other animals that are vanishing with it.”

-Friends of Hempstead Plains

Check out this beautiful slide show of the Hempstead Plains.