The Nebraska Sandhills
Blowouts are sandy areas where rapid wind erosion literally “blows out” a hole in the surface of the landscape. Blowouts are found scattered throughout all of the Sandhills and vary in size. They may be anywhere from a few feet in circumference to a few hundred feet.
Blowouts occur in areas where plants and their stabilizing roots become depleted, exposing the sandy soil to the wind. The blowout will expand as the wind continually blows, deepening and widening the hole and covering over surrounding vegetation. These conditions make it difficult for most plants to establish themselves in a blowout. A few species, however, thrive in blowouts. One such species is a grass, Sandhill Muhly. As the Sandhill Muhly stabilizes the soil,  other plants are able to establish themselves in the blowout once again, additionally stabilizing the soil and allowing for yet more plants to establish themselves. Eventually the blowout is completely stabilized once again, returning to typical sandhill prairie. This process of stabilization may take many years.
Because blowouts decrease grazing land, most ranchers are careful not to overgraze in the Sandhills, fearing that the lack of vegetation may lead to blowouts. For the same reason, most fire in the sandhills that may have occured naturally has been prevented. While this land management style has benefited some sandhill plants, it has decreased the number of blowouts found throughout the Sandhills, and consequently hurt some plants that depend on blowouts. One plant in particular is Hayden’s Penstemon, also known as Blowout Penstemon. Hayden’s Penstemon is Nebraska’s only endangered plant, and grows only in active blowouts.
blowout 1
blowout 2
blowout 3
blowout 4