Sunday, December 08, 2013

On Gunter Sandstone

Amidst the extensive tracts of dry chert woodlands and dolomite glades in the northern reaches of the Niangua River Basin rest small inclusions where the sandstone layer expresses itself. Typical for many sandstone glades in Missouri, the Gunther glade here is in the bottoms, associated with a stream characterized by slabs of sandstone and sparse vegetation. But even in winter at least one sandstone element was visible, the lovely lumpy fern, Cheilanthes lanosa, tucked into a boulder.

Also in this area are classic examples of restorable Gunther sandstone woodlands with massive old growth chinquapin oaks surrounded by cedars and a doghair stand of red oaks, relicts of fire suppression and grazing. But the large sandstone boulders make the area truly scenic. During the summer, large populations of fame flower dot the glades in little pockets where soil still exists on the slabs, and Spiranthes tuberosa can be found in the moist areas of the woodlands. It has been suggested that in the same region exists one of the longest caves in Gunther sandstone in the state, home to thousands of grotto salamanders.

In 1983, ecologists Paul Nelson and Doug Ladd published their first iteration of a glade map of Missouri using various imagery and sensing techniques. They originally found only a handful of sandstone glades in Missouri, but with our 2010-2013 glade mapping project coming to a close, the number of sandstone glades in Missouri has increased by over 1,000% from the 1983 publication with the bulk of them around Hermann and the Pennsylvanian channel sandstone region in the western part of the Ozarks. On this Gunther glade, the remains of this plant stumped us all:

Sandstone communities in Missouri are interesting places with a suite of plants restricted to them, including the federally listed Geocarpon minimum. The spring wildflowers associated with sandstone glades are lovely, curious little things that take advantage of the spring rains and then desiccate as the hot, dry summer moves in.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Its definitely Oenothera laciniata. I googled it and the inferior capsules that dehisce into four separate parts are axillary without peduncles in the leaf axils. Great article. I want to go there.

Paul