As I write this article on Earth Day 2013, I cannot help but think back to earlier this month when I had the opportunity to get out and enjoy nature in the southern Missouri Ozarks where the flowering dogwoods orange puccoon (Lithospermum canescens), rose verbena (Glandularia canadensis), wild hyacinths (Camassia scilloides), and fire pink (Silene virginica) were at peak blooming stage.
For all those birders reading this column, the summer migrating birds have arrived in Ozark County; having seen a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds, and heard a summer tanager as well as a distant whippoorwill.
Although spring in Rolla is slightly behind the southern Missouri Ozarks, it is not far off. In the next few weeks, don’t forget to go out and enjoy the annual display of spring wildflowers in the Ozarks.
Back in 2009 I stumbled upon a native plant on family property in southern Missouri called Aureolaria grandiflora commonly known as large flowered false foxglove.
It was found growing on a cedar choked chinkapin and white oak forested slope. Large flowered false foxglove is an important indicator plant of an historical oak savanna habitat.
An Ozark savanna is an open grown oak dominated habitat where at least 50 percent of the available sunlight hits the forest floor. This plant gave a glimpse into the past historical habitat which had been overrun by a drove of eastern red cedar trees.
After contacting our local private land conservationist, we took part in a Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program grant to restore two glade and savanna habitats back to pre-settlement conditions.
A great deal of hard physical work went into this project, but over the past four years these acres were transformed and the results have been astonishing.
With the last controlled burn of the grant conducted this past February, what was initially a dark, dry woodland dominated by eastern red cedars, has become a diverse habitat flourishing with animal and plant life.
As much as the project has been a success, it is not yet complete, but still evolving with time.
Admittedly, in the beginning, I almost lost hope in the project after the eastern red cedars were removed and debris was scattered everywhere.
But experts told me to be patient, assuring me that time would prove how beneficial the project would be to the surrounding ecosystem. I cannot express how right they were.
Being an adviser to the Meramec Hills Chapter Master Naturalist organization, native plants and habitat restoration is what I enjoy the most.
No matter if you are interested in land restoration or planting a native pollinator garden, creating a native habitat for wildlife is one step homeowners and businesses can take to help be good stewards of the environment.
Page 2 of 2 - The next time you are planning a flower garden, try planting native plants from a local nursery, and if you have property and are interested try contacting your local Missouri Department of Conservation Private Land Conservationist to see how you can improve your land for wildlife.