Dickcissel nest. Photo: Jeff Cantrell
About Gayfeather Prairie
MPF purchased this 76-acre prairie in 1976. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) owns an additional 40 acres, across the county road to the south. The name derives from the showy prairie flowers of the genus Liatris, commonly known as gayfeather or blazing star.
Gayfeather Prairie is predominantly a dry-mesic sandstone/shale prairie natural community. In addition, a rare prairie swale bisects the tract, and there are a few acres of remnant savanna in the southwestern corner.
Gayfeather Prairie supports at least 288 native plant species with an average CC value of 4.17, including 37 conservative species. The regal fritillary butterfly, listed as vulnerable in Missouri, is known to occur on this prairie. Grassland birds known to use the prairie during the breeding season include the northern bobwhite, Henslow’s sparrow, and field sparrows, eastern bluebird, and scissor-tailed flycatcher.
Gayfeather Prairie is cooperatively managed by MPF and MDC. Gayfeather Prairie is open to the public for hiking and nature viewing.
2019 Missouri River Bird Observatory Breeding Bird Surveys on MPF Properties (includes Gayfeather Prairie)
2019 Institute of Botanical Training Floristic Integrity Report (includes Gayfeather Prairie)
Gayfeather Prairie is in Vernon County on Union Track Road, about 7 miles east of Milo. From I-49, take exit 95 east on Highway E. Drive 7 miles, turn right (south) onto CR 2525, drive 2 miles, and then turn left onto Union Track Road. Park along the road in this area to visit the post oak savanna, or continue driving about one-third of a mile to the gravel parking lot, which is on the left. By GPS, N37 43.649 W94 10.480 (in decimal degrees, 37.72747 -94.17466).
The below Google Earth images are from 1995 and 2009. In the first image, extensive woody plant invasion can be noted along the road, in corners, and in the wet depressions and drainages of the prairie. Years of dedicated effort by MPF, including tree removal and prescribed burning, have restored the prairie to its former glory.
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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.