MPF 2021 Geology and Native Grasslands Tours

March 8, 2021 | Education, News

From ancient seas and volcanoes to drifting continents, the broad sweep of earth’s history is written in the rocks and soils that directly influence the structure and composition of Missouri’s native grasslands. In this tour series, MPF Technical Advisor Mike Leahy will be our guide to explore the direct and fascinating connections between the native plant and animal species of native grasslands and geology. Mike Leahy is a natural community ecologist and coordinates work to protect and manage land in the Missouri Natural Areas program. He is also the author of the newly revised Discover Missouri’s Natural Areas: A Guide to 50 Great Places.

Cost: Free. Maximum registration: 20 per hike. Register for one hike or all. We can put you on waiting lists if registration fills up. Secure your spot by emailing outreach@moprairie.org or calling 573-808-7007.

Note: Tours will be held rain or shine. If storms/lightning is predicted, tour leaders will contact registrants in the event we need to reschedule. Even though tours will be outside, tour leaders ask that participants practice social distancing and wear masks when needed.

Saturday May 15, 2021 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Glades – Our Xeric Prairies, Part 1
Come explore the unique grassland communities of our glades. These rocky openings of the Ozarks contain both tallgrass prairie species and species endemic to glades. We will explore sandstone glades with a geologic twist at Graham Cave State Park’s Natural Area. The long human history of this site and the relations between prairie, climate, Native Americans, and geology will be discussed.
After a field lunch at the park picnic grounds we’ll head to Danville Conservation Area to explore limestone glades that are host to many interesting species of plants and animals. For example, silky aster (Symphyotrichum sericeum) and prairie dandelion (Nothocalais cuspidata) occur on these glades and the loess hill prairies of northwestern Missouri, but not on other prairies in between. Why? Come find out!
Meet at 10:00 am at the Graham Cave State Park office (https://goo.gl/maps/8cKAg84UDRJ9R2j28 ). Be prepared for a few miles of both on and off trail hiking. Be prepared for ticks, heat, rocky terrain, and brush. Remember to bring plenty of water and sun protection. Bring a field lunch. Binoculars will be handy to view prime spring migration songbirds. Species checklists and maps will be provided.

Saturday May 29, 2021 10 am to 2 pm
Vinegar or Baking Soda – How Geology Influences Two Great Prairies
Few prairies in Missouri support prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum). Why is that? Come find out the answer to this mystery and so many more natural history details as we compare and contrast MPF’s Schwartz Prairie with MDC’s Twenty-Five Mile Prairie Natural Area. How does tallgrass prairie that developed over sandstone and shale bedrock differ from prairie developed over limestone and shale bedrock? Why does prairie dock and prairie turnip (Pediomelum esculentum) occur on one of these sites, while geocarpon (Geocarpon minimum) and golden selenia (Selenia aurea) occurs on the other?
This field trip will examine the relation between geology, soils, and land use history on the flora and fauna of Missouri’s unglaciated upland prairies. Meet at 10:00 a.m. at the parking lot at the north end of Twenty-Five Mile Prairie Natural Area (https://goo.gl/maps/dUzVq3bo92MXqtJj8). We’ll have a picnic lunch at Dimmitt Memorial Park in Humansville and then continue on to Schwartz Prairie (https://moprairie.org/project/schwartz-prairie/) in the afternoon.
Be prepared for a few miles off trail hiking. Be prepared for ticks, heat, rocky terrain, and brush. Remember to bring plenty of water and sun protection. Bring a field lunch. Binoculars will be handy to view prime spring migration songbirds. Species checklists and maps will be provided.

Saturday September 25, 2021 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Missouri’s Volcanic Grasslands or Glades – Our Xeric Prairies, Part 2
Come hike to the top of Hughes Mountain Natural Area and view glade life on ancient 1.5-billion-year-old rhyolite rock. Come see fame flower (Phemeranthus calycinus), farkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum) and prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia compressa) vying for life. If we’re lucky we might spot the exquisitely camouflaged lichen grasshopper (Trimerotropis saxatilis). We’ll also get to see the unusual columnar jointed rhyolite rocks, which are also known from Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. A mile-long trail leads from the parking lot to the top of this knob. We’ll be hiking on the trail as well as some off-trail hiking.
Meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Hughes Mountain Natural Area (https://goo.gl/maps/tLexiYNat1fjzLhb7) parking lot. Be prepared for a few miles of both on and off trail hiking. Be prepared for ticks, heat, rocky terrain and brush. Remember to bring plenty of water and sun protection. Bring a field lunch. Binoculars will be handy to view prime spring migration songbirds. Species checklists and maps will be provided. Note there are no restrooms except the outdoors at this site.

Photo: Schwartz Prairie by Bruce Schuette

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