Difference Between Prairie and Plain (With Table)

A land is a place on earth that is not a part of water. All the activities which humans do are done on land only, such as habitat, agriculture, mining, excavating natural resources etc. Certain life species which earlier used to live in water has now become terrestrial(plants and animals) which live on land. Division of land and water is very important for human beings. Prairie and Plain are also types of land only. Although they seem similar, there are certain differences between them. 

Prairie vs Plain

The difference between Prairie and Plain is that Prairie is a kind of a plain only. It comes under Plain. Prairie is a small part that constitutes a plain. They are grasslands that are lush green with trees and plants. Plain is an umbrella term that comprises prairies, steppes, grasslands etc. Plain can also be referred to as flat land, which can be treeless. It doesn’t have any kind of elevation and depression.

Prairie is an ecosystem where certain species of living organisms live, and it is a part of savannas, temperature grasslands and shrublands biome as classified by ecologists. A Plain is determined as Praire based on moderate rainfall, the composition of grasses, similar temperate climates, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, and as the dominant vegetation type. Prairies are most commonly found in the regions of North America. In the USA, almost all the states constitute Prairies. They are very rich in biodiversity.

Plain is flat land that is treeless, and there is no elevation in the plain. Plains can be seen near mountains, coastal areas, uplands, lowlands, plateaus or along valleys. In the case of Valleys, Plains are enclosed with two sides, and in other areas of plains, they may have cliffs, hills or mountains on a closure. In a region, if there is more than one plain, then it is termed as a gap or pass. Plains can be found in almost every continent, and it constitutes one-third of the land. They are very important for agriculture and livestock.

Comparison Table Between Prairie and Plain

Parameters of ComparisonPrairiePlain
TypesWet, Dry, MesicDepositional, Erosional, Structural
FormationTill and loess depositsSedimentation, erosion or lava.
AreaNorth AmericaAll continents except Antarctica
LargestThe Great PlainsWest Siberian Plain
ImportanceRare native habitat for insects, reptiles, birds, butterflies, and other small wildlife.   For agriculture and livestock.

What is Prairie?

The term “Prairie” is taken from the Latin word ‘pratum’ which means meadow. Prairies are most commonly found in North America. The formation of Prairie in North America took place when there was an uplift in the Rocky Mountains. Prairie was formed when there was a disposition of Glaciers some 1,10,000 years ago. Soils of prairies consist of till(glacial deposits) and loess deposits. Tallgrass Prairie had evolved some 10,000 years ago when fire and grazing took place.

Early humans and animals like bison, elk, and white-tailed deer used to wander around these grasslands. Due to hunting, lighting fire and grazing animals, there was the formation of prairies and diversity of species. The fertility of the Prairies is very much good even though it had a drought and torrential rains. It survived, and there was no soil erosion. Prairies that are found in North America are classified into three types: Dry, Wet, and Mesic.

Dry prairies have dry soil, and it can be usually seen on uplands and slopes. It doesn’t have much vegetation because of the lack of rain. These dry prairies are found in the Sothern Canada region. Wet Prairies have wet soil, which is very moist, and they have poor drainage. But it has excellent farming soil. Mesic Prairies are best because it has both good drainage and good soil and is used for agricultural purposes. It also comes under endangered prairies.

What is Plain?

Plains are the major landforms that are found everywhere in the world. It can be natural as well as artificial. It covers one-third of the land’s area. The formation of plains takes place either through the process of sedimentation by ice, wind, or water or by erosion that is formed by mountains and hills or by flowing lava. Biomes that are found on Plains consists of savannah (tropical), grassland (temperate or subtropical), tundra(polar) and steppe(semi-arid). In some cases, rainforests and deserts can also be considered as a part of plains.

Plains are used for agricultural processes as the fertility of the soil is very rich in these areas. Because soil is deposited by sediments, and they are a flat piece of land that helps in the production of crops, and it is also considered as good for grazing of livestock as they support grasslands. Prairies can also be said as a plain. Plains occur in uplands, lowlands, valleys, mountains, plateaus, coastal areas etc.

There are various types of plains such as Depositional, Structural and Erosional. Depositional Plain consists of alluvial plains, which are formed due to rivers. There are Flood Plain, Scroll Palin, Underwater plain, which is on the deep ocean floor. Glacial plains are formed because of glaciers due to gravity. There is also outwash plain, till Plain, lava plain etc. Structural Plains are formed when there is a disturbance in the horizontal surface of the earth. It is found extensively in lowlands. Erosional plains are formed due to erosions caused by wind, glaciers, water etc.

Main Differences Between Prairie and Plain

  1. Prairie is classified into three types: Wet, Dry, Mesic. Plains also have various types like Depositional, Erosional, Structural, and then they have sub-types as well.
  2. Prairie is formed due to Till, i.e., glacial deposits and loess deposits. Plains are formed through a process of Sedimentation, erosion or lava.
  3. Prairie is found in areas of North America. Plains are found in all continents except Antarctica and arctic circles.
  4. The largest Prairie in the world is The Great Plains, found in Central North America. The largest Plains in the world is the West Siberian Plain found in Russia.
  5. Prairies are important for rare native habitats for insects, birds, butterflies, and other small wildlife, and they are adaptable to climate. Plains are important for agriculture purposes and livestock.


Both Prairie and Plains are important landforms that are found on earth. Prairies are important because they are long-lasting, require very little maintenance, do not need any pesticides and fertilizers. Plains are important for agriculture, and they became grazing grounds for animals. Prairie is a specific term that refers to a type of habitation. Plain is a more umbrella term which comprises many things. A Prairie can be a Plain, but a Plain can’t be a Prairie. Prairie has mid, short and tall grasses and Plains are treeless that are flatlands. Plains can be found on unearthly surfaces, also like on sea beds or the moon.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1942180
  2. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/271768
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