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.