Thursday, August 30, 2012

Inside/Outside a Deer Exclosure

Sampling continues, with the latest round of visits to a series of deer exclosures that were established in the 1980s. I've sampled these exclosures for four years now, and have a stockpile of data that show a continual upswing in the deer problem. Missouri's woodlands are beginning to look like certain urban areas where the understory consists of a small list of sedges, Panic grasses, and maybe one or two low C-value forbs (and bush honeyscukle and wintercreeper, of course). The deer problem in Missouri continues to escalate, and I'm just gathering data, writing testamony.

Photos below from a terrific fen complex with Fuirena simplex, lots of Rudbeckia fulgida, grass of Parnassus, etc. The first 3 photos are from inside the cattle panel cage (held together with 10 gauge baling wire, wrapped to fenceposts. This requires climbing into the exclosure, of course). [These exclosures are easy to construct (and affordable) if you, too, wanted to measure deer impacts on your property.] A suite of forbs in the area are restricted to inside the exclosure (grass of Parnassus, Aster praealtus, Lysimachia, Physalis), and while the landscape is the same on the other side of the fence, these plants are missing from the outside of the fence, having been browsed so severely that these and other species have been extirpated. Inside the exclosure all forbs were erect and blooming or in bud, and not exhibiting multibranching or sprawling habits that are the direct results of deer overbrowse. The third photo is of E. perfoliatum inside the exclosure which the deer snipped off because it was so close to an opening in the cattle panel.

In this fen, ice cream plants for deer include: R. fulgida, E. perfoliatum, A. azureus, H. autumnale. These plants were browsed so severely that they will not flower this year. I couldn't capture the scale of the significant browse, as it exists throughout the entire fen. Deer apparently do not like F. simplex and juncus. And even cows don't like Vernonia! But the deer have hit the Vernonia pretty hard, too. The Fuirena has expanded exponentially this year with the competing forbs having been browsed so much in recent years that it (and Juncus, Scirpus) have grown into massive populations. [Similarly, in dry mesic woodlands here, Diarrhena americana and Sanicula gregaria have colonized an entire woodland floor in the absence of other plants.] A few photos from outside the exclosure:

 I love sampling inside the exclosures, as they're generally remarkably different from outside the cattle panels these days.

Friday, August 24, 2012


I am fortunate to know several old timers (ages 65 and above) in the Ozarks who regularly provide perspectives into the current condition of extended drought and unprecedented wildfire conditions. Earlier this summer, maybe back in June, I was told that this summer might shape up to compare to the drought of 1980. By mid-July, with wildfires popping up all over the Ozarks, I was told that this drought has surpassed the 1980 levels. All week I've heard from my old timer friends that they have never seen anything like the conditions they're seeing today. This drought, this long-lasting drought has turned the Maries River into a trickle, and the East Fork section of the Black River is exposed bedrock rather than a fast, clear, swift Ozark stream. I heard earlier today that an early 1900s steam engine has been discovered in the bed of the Gasconade River, submerged all these years underwater and exposed again during this year's drought due to low water levels. (Special thanks to a comment below, two links with the full story of the train found in the Gasconade and the story about the wreck: See here and here  Truly fascinating. It's apparently been seen before, but this year's drought has made it possible to see it again.)

Driving throughout Missouri--North Missouri, Central Ozarks, Southeast Missouri around Poplar Bluff-- the signs of drought are evident. Some areas have had some rain--Park Hills country, Cape Girardeau, but other areas (St. Francois Mountains, Lincoln Hills, and others) have been hit really hard by the drought. Entire woodland canopies are browning out, leaving absolutely no hope for a fall color display and, more importantly, potentially leaving in the wake a mess of dead mature canopy trees. Even in the protected coves of the St. Francois Mountains, the canopy is browning. Sandbar-specific plants are colonizing the Missouri River sandbars. The photo below was taken outside of Centerville last week.

It looks like we may receive some respite from all this dry weather in the coming days, potentially allowing for a fall explosion of glade wildflower blooms.    

Friday, August 10, 2012

Augusta Winery Medals Again

Of course Augusta won multiple medals at the annual Missouri Wine Competition! They produce seriously fantastic wine, and I'm glad their 09 Norton Reserva del Patron took gold even if it means I have to buy a case in the coming days because it will likely be snatched up very soon...

From today's newsletter:

Bringing home Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals AND the Best of Class Dry White for our Estate Bottled Dry Vignoles we are speechless.. this must be what Michael Phelps feels like.. all of the time. It's all thanks to our customers for continuing to show their love and support and for continuing to bring your thirsty palates to the First Accepted AVA in the US, Viticultural Area #1, Appellation of Origin. Whatever you want to call it, it's because of you our winemaker/owner continues to produce excellent quality, estate bottled wines that are true to the terroir for year-round enjoyment.

We have an extremely limited availability on the 2012 Best of Class Dry White winning Estate Bottled Dry Vignoles. With such limited number of cases left we normally wouldn't sample this wine in the tasting room but to celebrate the Win we are opening up some bottles to share Saturday 8/11 - Sunday 8/12. After sampling we know you'll want to stock up before it's gone but we want to share it with as many of you as possible so we're limiting purchases to one case per customer. Our moms taught us to share so we're forcing that learnin' on you, sorry!


If you can't make it out this weekend you'll still be able to sample our gold, silver, and bronze medal winners (as seen below) until they're sold out but due to availability we had to restrict samples on the Dry Vignoles to one weekend.

Gold Medal: 2010 Estate Vignoles
2010 Seyval Blanc
2010 Chardonel
2009 Norton Reserva del Patron
2010 Estate Norton
Estate Bottled La Fleur Sauvage

Silver Medal:
2011 Seyval Blanc

2009 Chambourcin
2011 Vidal Icewine
2008 Vintage Port
River Valley White
River Valley Red

Bronze Medal:
2010 Vignoles

2011 Vignoles
2010 Estate Traminette
2010 Chambourcin
2010 Vignoles Icewine

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Crispy and Crunchy on the Springfield Plain

The landscape has been painted in rust. The two inches of rain that fell Saturday night on the Springfield Plain came a little too late--there is no hope for a regreening of the vegetation this summer. Stepping onto the limestone glade, covered in March with Missouri bladderpod and in early May with Monarda citriodora, I was reminded of bad herbicide treatments along highways in Mississippi and Louisiana where boom sprayer operators use Garlon to kill the trees, shrubs and everything in the path for miles along the highway. The glade and surrounding chinquapin oak woodlands have given up the proverbial ghost this season.

Driving Hwy 160, I passed long stretches of burned out roadsides, the results of stray cigarette butts or dragging mufflers. We couldn't drive through the fescue pasture that day to reach the second glade for fear of sparks from chert or our own faulty muffler, so we hiked out there on that clement 89 degree day. The gum bumelia and aromatic sumac have desiccated on the second glade, and Sedum pulchellum? The spring blooming succulent that usually sticks around through the fall? Black twigs. I played late winter botany in early August. Sporobolus asper and Helianthus mollis, however, aren't batting an eye to this drought.  

If rain patterns return after this summer's record breaking drought, the vegetation will come back again next year according to one published paper I've read on this topic. It would be really nice if the drought killed smooth brome and sericea in this grassland restoration project, but I don't think we'll be so lucky.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Streambanks in bloom

I wish I could set up sprinklers in my favorite tract of woods, all 4,000 acres of them. When dry woodland obligates like Helianthus hirsutus wilt, it must be terribly dry. But the flora of Ozark streambanks isn't batting an eye at all this upland drought. Moist, protected growing conditions, perennial wet feet in cool, fast moving streams, the perfect setting for the late summer and early fall wildflowers like cardinal flower, that magnificent tall spike of red that no paint color can ever match. Penthorum sedoides hasn't quite opened yet, and Rudbeckia fulgida (found on fens located on bluffs, usually with Lysimachia and other fen plants) isn't yet in bloom, so there's plenty of time to hit the rivers this month for some terrific floral displays...