Saturday, March 22, 2014

Harbinger of Spring in White River Country

I set out Wednesday morning under a frosty windshield and temperatures hovering well below freezing. It's taken five years, but the glade mapping project in Missouri is finished with over 80,000 glades mapped in Missouri. Not necessarily in search of spring, we set out to White River country to identify glades for the neighbors to the south. I was, however, expecting more of a floral display for late March in the southernmost regions of Missouri compared to the desolate winter-scape of the northern Ozark Highlands.

We visited all kinds of glades this week--glades with a long grazing history, glades with a hog problem, glades on a substrate not even recorded from the area. But no spring Drabas, no little mustards in flower yet. The only signs of spring were the spring peepers in the ponds and the stray Eastern phoebe calling from the telephone pole.

Hiking through a degraded White River Hills landscape all choked in Eastern red cedar, a deer problem and a hog problem, we made it a good four miles before coming across a raggedy bottomland along a stream that we had to ford to get back to the vehicle. But as we approached the doghair stand of box elders, sycamores and little elms on the streamside, I heard my colleague mutter "bet there's Harbinger of Spring in that bottoms...." Behold! Salt and Pepper, Harbinger of Spring, Erigenia bulbosa, my first of the year in late March! And lots of them scattered all over the bottoms, all in full flower. What's next? The anemones, spring beauty, Common Yellowthroats, and warmer temperatures ushering in the time of year for pruning grape vines in Missouri vineyards, of bluebells along the Jack's Fork and late afternoons of planting greens while watching the insects come to life after a very long winter.

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