Sunday, May 1, 2011

Victoria Glades

If I had to pick a favorite habitat, it would be glades. Open sky, tough plants, rocks that invite you to sit and look, that's what I'm talkin' about! To officially qualify as a glade, the area must have all or most of these characteristics:

  • thin, rocky soils
  • exposed bedrock
  • steep slope
  • facing south, west, or southwest
  • dry, fast draining soils
  • fire adapted plants
  • scarcity of trees

Spring is busy for gardeners with binoculars, but I decided to make time for "Missouri's Glades," a continuing education class at St. Louis Community College, sponsored by Missouri Native Plant Society (MONPS), and taught by their past-president, Rex Hill. Our first field trip was to a dolomite glade less than an hour from me,  Victoria Glades in Jefferson County. One portion of the glades is managed by The Nature Conservancy, the other by Missouri Dept. of Conservation.

Let's get right to the amazing plants and animals: I have never seen so much Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea)! The whole hillside had a reddish cast. Alongside the paintbrush, Fremont's Leather Flower (Clematis fremontii) bloomed. This is a non-climbing clematis, rare and protected in Missouri. I have never seen it in  bloom before.

A female broad-headed skink warms in the sun from a tree cavity on the edge of the glade.
Down by the creek, the Louisiana Waterthrush sang his beautiful, slurred complex song. Up in the glades, Prairie Warblers sang from thickets of fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica). Eventually, one danced to the edge and gave us great views. Blue-winged warbler, another species that likes open or shrubby habitat, popped up to the top of a tree, threw back his little yellow head, wheezing his sleepy, "Beee-buzzzzz."

In spite of strong breezes, we saw butterflies too.We watched a very faded, transparent Monarch nectaring on leather flower. There were Eastern Tailed Blues on False Toadflax, and we saw several Pearl Crescents.  I just managed to get a poor photo of a dark butterfly, which I think was a lifer for me, a Dusted Skipper!

One of the group found a Wild Turkey egg in the dry grass. A good part of the egg was missing, and as we look inside, we could see a large beetle that apparently was eating what was left of the yolk, or possibly, was eating whatever was eating the yolk. After following Beetles in the Bush and taking my first tentative steps toward appreciating insects, I was excited that I identified it as a carrion beetle, Necrophila americana.

John managed to find us a striped bark scorpion, a Western Slimy Salamander,  and this little dandy, an Eastern Hog-nosed Snake. Non-venomous hog-nosed snakes are the entertainers of the reptile world. A hog-nose can play possum, rolling over belly-up leaving its tongue out. When being "dead" doesn't seem the best defense, it will try to bluff its way out of the jam. It can pull its head and front portion upright, spreading its neck in a thoroughly convincing imitation of a cobra; when I happened to come upon one of these tricksters, it made my hair stand on end! Pat, who volunteers at a St. Louis County conservation area, told me that they had reports of 3 cobras just that week!

I took about 100 photos--seriously. I shared a few of them here.


  1. Wonderful! There's a glade at Shaw Nature Reserve -- that's the only one I've ever been to, but they're great! It's nice walking out of the forest and finding the sunny, grassy expanse.

    I really need to attract skinks or lizards or snakes to my yard.

  2. I've read that building a mound of rocks or filling a hole with sand may encourage a snake to spend the winter.
    The glade at Shaw NR is wonderful too. I believe that was the first place I ever saw Indian paintbrush.

  3. I met one of those cobra-imitating snake while out walking with my father on the farm he grew up on (Cedar Hill, MO). It was very impressive! So impressive that my dad handed ME a big stick, saying "Here, Mary, you kill it"... I declined snake-bashing.

  4. As a cobra, he's a fraud, but as an entertainer, the hog-nosed is the real deal! I'm so glad he survived to impress another day. Thanks for the comment, Zinzer!

  5. This was very interesting. I had always thought of a glade as a green grassy place in the woods. Guess I couldn't have been farther from the truth. I have been in a few glades (now that I now the defination!) and they certainly are interesting places. The Fremont's Leather Flower is such a neat looking flower.

  6. It is a really cool plant--rare, because it requires glade conditions. In summer though, the glade is a green ( or brown), sunny place, often surrounded by woods.

  7. that top photo is wonderful! the way the sun is shining thru the leaves of the plant. :)

    thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment! Many blessings to you and yours!

  8. I enjoy your blog, Texwisgirl! Thanks for the compliment on my photo--it was a fantastic morning!