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.


Pix at Under the Oaks said...

Allison, this is Pix from Under the Oaks blog. Rural Rambles as a I follow you. We are down 54 from Jefferson City. We live on 10 acres and every thing is scorched and dying. Our Oaks for the most part are green but showing stress. No rain here since May 7th~seriously. Red Buds, Dogwood, Burning Bushes looking sad. Do you have any idea how long the Oaks can take this drought? We went to Springfield, MO yesterday and every thing is frying down that way. I was shocked and sad. We are watering the large Oaks that we can reach in the area we mow for yard but obviously can't do anything about the Oaks and Hickory in our wooded and field areas. I am so sad over our large Oaks and all the trees, flowers and green things in our yard that are losing the struggle. Have to pick wisely on what to water because we have a well. I have never been through anything like this and I am 60. Anything you have to say would be appreciated. I think we may lose some of our wine time Under the Oaks Oaks... :( We are trying to keep the birds happy with lots of water and some seed. We have little frogs hanging out on the ceiling of our outdoor porch. My heart breaks for the wildlife. Geesh I am beginning to wonder if it will rain again. Rain was all around us Wednesday night but not a drop for us. Hope you are seeing some rain where you call home!

Allison Vaughn said...

I feel your pain. I've been wondering about the long term effects of this drought, as well, and have done some research. A fine author, Weaver (don't have the citation here at home), published several papers about drought impacts to native flora. Long and short of it is that if we get back into a normal weather pattern after this long drought, vegetation (your oaks, ground flora, shrubs) will be fine next year--think of this as an early dormant period. I haven't found much research on impacts to fauna, namely insects and birds who depend on insects and seeds. I've heard from all my older friends (65+) that this is worse than 1980, with comparisons now to 1935. I'm old, but I wasn't around in 1935, so I don't have anything to compare it to. Thinking of you south of JC and hoping those storms that seem to hit Osage Beach country will pop up in your neighborhood. It's going to take a lot of rain to make a difference, of course, but this should be short term stress we're seeing. By the way, no rain where I live, either. Willard-Walnut Grove-Ash Grove area looks really bad, even worse than south of JC (did you get some of that hail at least?). Fingers crossed for rain next week. We need drenching.