Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ozark and Ouachita Highlights

Some of you knew that Justin Thomas, Brad Slaughter, Doug Ladd, and I took a spring botany trip to the Ozarks and Ouachitas in late April 2010, and I'd promised that I would post photos both here and at Through Handlens and Binoculars. Below are some of the highlights from our trip.

Our journey certainly started out on the right foot as we visited Victoria Glade near St. Louis on our way to the Ozarks. The highlight at this location was Clematis fremontii, shown above. The genus name Clematis means "a climbing plant," however this species happens to be the only non-vine member of the genus that occurs in Missouri. This species was named in honor of the 19th century American explorer John Charles Fremont.

At Frog Hollow, a property owned in part by Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission Botanist Theo Witsell, we were delighted to see a couple of Cypripedium kentuckiense plants in bloom. This towering lady's slipper (up to 70 cm tall) dwarfs the other members of the genus that I've seen, and has the largest flower of any Cypripedium. The flowers are cream colored and the end of the "slipper" is blunt in shape.

Amsonia hubrichtii is nearly a Ouachita endemic, know from one Ozark county in Arkansas outside of the Ouachitas. It can be found growing on gravel bars and near creeks and streams. We saw three species of Amsonia on our journeys; this one was observed at Middle Fork Barrens Natural Area.

The identity of the species above, observed at Dry Lost Creek Glade in Bauxite Natural Areas, is still in question. It would key to Phemeranthus rugospermus, but Theo told us that this is a species new to science that is currently being described. There are several plant species that fit this bill in the Ouachitas. As Justin told us, the Ouachitas are geologically more similar to the Appalachians than they are to the Ozarks. It seems that the Ouachitas were once part of the Appalachian range, but the two ranges have since been geographically separated. This geographical and genetic separation has led to speciation occurring in the isolated Ouachitas. There are still many species new to science to be described in this part of the United States.

At Camp Road Shale Barrens, we saw Valerianella longiflora, shown above. The flowers of this cornsalad have a pinkish tinge and, as the Latin name implies, a long corolla tube. A species endemic to Arkansas and Olkahoma, Longtube Cornsalad grows in rocky glades and open woodlands. This was one of four species of Valerianella that we saw on our trip.

One of our target species in the open woodlands surrounding the Shut-in Mountain Fens in Shannon County, Missouri was Nemastylis geminiflora, pictured above. The flowers of this species open before noon and close before sundown. After leaving Shut-in Mountain, we stopped at a roadside glade and found more Prairie Pleatleaf, but the flowers had already closed as dusk was approaching. Nemastylis geminiflora is found in woodlands, prairies, glades, and pastures in the southern United States from Kansas and Texas to Tennessee and Alabama.

Justin and Brad had both seen Trillium pusillum var. ozarkanum before, but this was my first personal experience with this species. We found it near Winona, Missouri, growing more densely in the mowed roadside than in the surrounding forest. Ozark Wakerobin is only known to occur in five states: Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. As seen in the photo, the flowers of this species are on pedicels, placing it in subgenus Trillium (the sessile-flowered species are placed in subgenus Phyllantherum).

Astragalus crassycarpus var. trichocalyx was one of my target species on the trip, and I wasn't disappointed when we found it. Groundplum Milkvetch is found in the central United States from Illinois to Texas. The first part of the common name refers to the edible fruit that look like plums. This member of the family Fabaceae grows in glades, prairies, and rocky open woods. We found Buffalo Pea, as it is also known, at Spurgeon Hollow in the lower Ozarks of Missouri.

Another Astragalus that was on my trip wish list was Astragalus distortus var. engelmannii, shown above. This diminutive milkvetch grows on limestone and shale glades in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. We saw this species on shale barrens at Middle Fork Barrens Natural Area.

The genus Lonicera often gets a bad rap, and generally for good reason. With so many non-native and invasive species of honeysuckle choking out our woods, it's easy to despise the entire group of species. However, there are also native and very attractive honeysuckles around, and we saw two of them, both vines, on our trip. Above is Lonicera flava, and below is Lonicera sempervirens, both observed at several of the sites we visited. It amazes me that these species are not more commonly used as native landscaping plants.

We also saw four species of Tradescantia, including the widespread Bluejacket (Tradescantia ohiensis, not shown).

The spiderwort above, Tradescantia longipes, was one of my targets on the trip, and we found it in bloom in dry woods at Spurgeon Hollow. Wild Crocus, as it is known, is endemic to Missouri and Arkansas. Unlike most other members of the genus, the leaves of this Tradescantia are basal.

The spiderwort that we observed most frequently on our excursion was Tradescantia ernestiana, pictured above. Ernest's Spiderwort is known from the southcentral United States, from Texas to Alabama. We found it growing most commonly in wooded situations, often on ledges and bluffs, but occasionally also in open habitats and on roadsides.

Another of my target species on this trip, shown above, was Tradescantia hirsuticaulis, and we found it in bloom at Frog Hollow. The hirsute stem for which it is named is one of the characters used to distinguish Hairystem Spiderwort from similar species. This species grows on glades and in open woods from Oklahoma to South Carolina.

If you're not bored yet and want to see more photos and hear more about our trip, click here and here.


Anonymous said...

Great stuff! I saw Tradescantia longipes a week ago at Sam Baker State Park (Wayne Co. Missouri). Also there was Lonicera flava, and I couldn't agree more with your puzzling over why it is not used more in the landscape - draping up a tree in the lower story it is a spectacular plant when in bloom.

Scott Namestnik said...

Thanks Ted. Those native, viney honeysuckles are far more attractive than the Eurasian fly honeysuckles...

Keith said...

Excellent photos and very educational post. Good stuff Scott!

Anonymous said...

Great photos of really cool plants!

Scott Namestnik said...

Thanks yrfavoriteriver... thanks also for visiting our blog. Come back often.

Keith, I just noticed that I never thanked you for your comment here. A belated thanks to you as well!