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UW Extension Publication Classifies Thunder Basin Plant Life

March 23, 2018
Tufted milkvetch, a native perennial of the Fabaceae family, is among the 195 species of plants listed in “Common Herbaceous Plants of the Thunder Basin Grasslands,” a new checklist published by UW Extension. (Katie Estep, USDA Photo)

A new checklist of Thunder Basin plant life is available for anyone who wants to learn more about the wide-open landscapes where the Great Plains meet the sagebrush steppe.

Free from University of Wyoming Extension, “Common Herbaceous Plants of the Thunder Basin Grasslands” is available at

The comprehensive plant list classifies plants according to forbs (flowering plants), shrubs, sub-shrubs, grasses and grass-likes (sedges and rushes). Each plant listing includes whether the plant is native or exotic; perennial (long-lived); biennial (two years) or annual; and its family and scientific name.

For example, soapweed yucca is a native perennial of the Agavaceae family, whose scientific name is Yucca glauca. Maiden blue-eyed Mary is a native annual of the Scrophulariaceae family. Its scientific name is Collinsia parviflora.

Squirrel grass, sleepy grass, winter fat grass, prickly pear and fuzzy-tongue penstemon are among the 195 species included.

According to the authors, the Thunder Basin grasslands in northeastern Wyoming are an ecotone where northern mixed grass prairie, short grass prairie and the sagebrush steppe come together. Ranging in elevation from 3,600 to 5,200 feet, the area is home to a rich array of plants and animals.

The new fact sheet provides a starting point for becoming familiar with the plants of the region’s uplands.

“Common Herbaceous Plants of the Thunder Basin Grasslands” is the third in a series from UW Extension in partnership with the Thunder Basin Research Initiative; area ranchers and energy companies; the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the U.S. Forest Service; and the Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association.

It is one of more than 600 “how-to” guides from UW Extension (see that help extend skills in gardening, grazing, pruning, canning, cropping, habitat restoration and more. YouTube video series from UW Extension include “From the Ground Up,” “Barnyards and Backyards,” and “Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.”

For more information on this publication, call Derek Scasta, UW Extension range specialist, at (307) 766-2337 or email

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