Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rocky Barrens in the Rain

Mike Skinner of MDC graciously offered to lead a field trip to Rocky Barrens CA to look at the Missouri Bladderpod.  Glades were described in our training as a dry, rocky, desert-like environment.  Well, one out of three ain't bad.
Mike knows everything there is to know about glades and glade plants and fauna, but is not so strong in weather forecasting.  We all were expecting to cut the trip short because of the drizzle with intermittent rain, but the trip was so enjoyable we continued for over 2 hours.
It has been a bad year for seeing Bladderpod, with only 2 dozen found last weekend and two this trip.  The petals close up tight on cold cloudy days, an option that I envied as I dripped water while photographing them.  Mort, being smarter than I, remained zipped up and asked for a copy of the picture when I got home.  In 1835, Elias Barcroft, a government land surveyor, described the land as "rocky, barren, covered with limestone bedrock and unfit for cultivation", thus unknowingly naming the future CA.  Our own Merrill Dubach lived nearby around 1994, and found Missouri Bladderpod on the glade after seeing a picture of it in the Missouri Conservationist.  It is an endangered species, occuring in only 4 counties in Missouri
One of the highlights was finding two different aromatic sumac bushes.  Rhus aromatica var. aromatica on the right, and Rhus Aromatica var. serotina bloom at different times, so finding them  side by side in the same picture was a special treat.  More Rhus aromatica  pictures are at Missouri Plants.
While Bladderpod was the mission, we covered the history of the CA and surveying in the 1800's, glade plants, and why Mike believes you shouldn't reach under a rock in scorpion country.  Oh, and we learned a little bit about meteorology- always check the radar before getting dressed.
We found Tharp's Spiderwort on top of the glade.  Called the short stem Spiderwort, it is typically found in rocky prairies, open woodlands and glades in unglaciated prairie areas in six counties in the southwestern corner of the state.  When the spiderwort stems are cut, a viscous stem secretion is released which becomes thread-like and silky upon hardening (like a spider's web), hence the common name.  
This MDC site has good information on the Missouri Bladderpod.  Go to this site for Rocky Barrens Information.  And be sure to visit Rocky Barrens with Mike on a nice sunny spring day.
Survivors were Marlyss Simmons, Jennifer Ailor, Mort Shurtz, Barb and myself.

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