Sunday, February 12, 2012

Wintergreen


Spring wildflower season doesn't begin for several weeks in the Ozarks, but winter's green reminds us that one can practice botany all year. Aside from the mosses and lichens- the great diversity of species of both found throughout the Ozarks in almost every landscape type- a handful of ferns spend their winter clinging to the sides of limestone, dolomite and sandstone boulders, persisting in these harsh growing conditions. Cheilanthees feei and Pellea atropurpurea show up in sampling plots on glades, both of them small ferns that tuck themselves into little crevices on rock outcrops, able to withstand flaming fronts during prescribed fires. In wooded areas, where the leaves of spring's pale corydalis can be found almost year round, walking fern covers large areas on boulders by sending out little plantlets that send their pale roots into tiny crevices of large boulders. The ancient genetic memory of distinct plant communities in the Ozarks cannot be duplicated or recreated, for it is an irreplaceable and infinitely remarkable vestige of Missouri's natural history that evolved over thousands of years.






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