Plains puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense) and Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) at the sand prairie. Photo by Bruce Schuette

Edgar W. Schmidt Sand Prairie

About Schmidt Prairie

In early June 2021, the Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) purchased an extremely rare sand prairie of nearly 55 acres in Scott County in southeastern Missouri near Benton. The Edgar W. Schmidt Sand Prairie is one of only two sand prairies (Southeastern Missouri Subtype) in the Missouri Natural Heritage Database.

MPF’s new acquisition is the only tract in conservation ownership in the state containing sand prairie and sand savanna, which are critically imperiled natural communities in the state. The property also has a rare sand swale and provides habitat for a remarkable 18 species of conservation concern.

The sand deposits in southeastern Missouri were associated with ancient channels of the ancestral Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Prairie, savanna, and woodland natural communities that are associated with sand deposits are very limited in extent in Missouri, and all are considered rare in the state. Southeastern Missouri sand prairies are also unique—not only because they are vastly different from other prairie communities, but also because they are substantially different from the few sand prairies in northeastern Missouri. Many of the species in the Edgar W. Schmidt Sand Prairie have more affinities to the eastern and southeastern U.S. and even to the Gulf Coastal Plain than to sand prairies in northeastern Missouri.

The sand prairie, sand swale, and sand savanna communities of the property provide habitat for characteristic species like golden aster (Heterotheca camporum), tickseed coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa), Plains puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense), meadowbeauty (Rhexia mariana), and sand milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis). The Missouri plant species of conservation concern documented from the property include jointweed (Polygonum americanum), pine barrens tick trefoil (Desmodium strictum), creeping St. John’s wort (Hypericum adpressum), and sand hickory (Carya pallida). The six-lined racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineata), a lizard found in a variety of habitats including sand prairies, lives here as well.

This sand prairie was owned for many years by the Charleston Baptist Association, and was leased for nearly 20 years for sand prairie management conducted by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
This purchase was made possible thanks to a bequest from the late Edgar W. Schmidt of St. Louis and a grant from the MDC Conservation Land Acquisition Program. The late Edgar W. Schmidt, a lifetime member of MPF, made provisions for a planned gift to MPF to support the organization after his lifetime. His very generous bequest, received in August 2020, not only provided funding for the sand prairie named for him, but also supported the acquisition of MPF’s Lordi Marker Prairie and will also make a future land acquisition possible. Schmidt also named MPF as a beneficiary of a permanent, charitable endowment that he established before his death with the St. Louis Community Foundation, with MPF receiving an annual payment from the fund to support its work. MPF is grateful for funding from Schmidt and from MDC, which has allowed MPF to purchase and protect the rare natural heritage elements of this sand prairie, to be enjoyed by Missourians in perpetuity.

Read about the prairie dedication in this Missouri Prairie Journal article.

Learn more about Edgar W. Schmidt Prairie and bootheel sand prairies in this Missouri Prairie Journal article. 


From I-55 exit 80 (for Benton and Diehlstadt), take MO 77 to the southeast for approximately 2.8 miles. The sand prairie will be on the right (south). Parking: The Charleston Baptist Association has graciously allowed for limited parking at its property whenever it does not have events. Additional, limited parking is available on the northwestern corner of the property near a shed, and along a gravel lane off the northeastern corner of the property.

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For over 55 years, the Missouri Prairie Foundation has been conserving Missouri’s prairies and other native grasslands. Donate now to help conserve prairie in Missouri, one of the most imperiled, beautiful, and biologically diverse habitat types on earth. Donate, become a member, and find other ways to support our work.