Category Archives: Ozark Hills

Walking and learning about the Ozark Hills

Admiring Beautiful Rainbows

Ozark summers are a time of scattered showers. Sunset was close, clouds were drifting over. The light turned yellow turning the pastures in glowing gold. The perfect time for beautiful rainbows.

Rainbows happen when the sun is low in the sky shining toward a light shower. There was no shower, only hot and humid weather.

As the last goats finished eating, I watched the pastures glow under the yellow sky. The goats got done and went in. I headed to the chicken house to close them up for the night.

There it was: a rainbow.

A double rainbow
The main arc of color was vivid in this rainbow. The second arc was barely visible. Double rainbows are not unusual here.

This valley is a great place for beautiful rainbows. The valley runs north to south. The side valley runs west giving a break for the setting sun to stream through.

The east side in summer is tree leaf paved hillsides. These darken as the sun sinks behind the western hill.

The clouds had moved in from the west. They scudded over the valley laughing at my thirsty garden. Over the eastern hills the clouds stalled and dropped a steady, misty rain.

Sunlight hit those water drops reflecting and refracting inside them as inside a prism. The light split into colors and the rainbow arc wavered into being.

The rainbow strengthened until it was clear and strong arching over the hills. A second arc tried to appear above it but never quite showed more than a hint of color.

This rainbow set off the dark green hills and blue grey sky for five to ten minutes. Then the sun sank below the lip of the hill. The rainbow was gone as quickly as it appeared.

beautiful rainbows at sunset
This rainbow was a surprise. The small pasture is across from the porch and makes a great place to admire the rainbows.

Over the years we’ve seen many beautiful rainbows in this valley. Each has been special and held us in awe watching as they strengthened then vanished. Many have been doubles. One seemed to end in the north pasture.

Knowing something of how rainbows form is interesting. It doesn’t reduce the awe seeing a rainbow brings.

Find more about rainbows in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Garden Variety Monarda

I’ve seen Monarda out in the fields and pastures for years. Two kinds, beebalm and horsemint, grow here. They are similar. they are not the garden variety Monarda.

The flowers are long downwardly curving tubes of light lavender with lavender spots. These come from a spherical base and hang out looking like a loose mop head.

Horsemint blooms first. It likes to grow in the woods and has leaves that sit down on the stem.

Horsemint flower
In wild beebalm the bottom ring of a Monarda flower head opens first followed by succeeding higher rings until all have bloomed. In the garden variety, most of the flowers open at the same time.

Beebalm likes the sunny pastures. Its leaves have petioles. That’s the easy way to tell them apart.

The garden variety of Monarda is different.

The flower arrangement is similar. The long tubes hang from a central sphere. The mop heads top every stem.

Color is the big difference. The garden variety Monarda is deep red. The leaves are more triangular and deeper green.

red garden variety Monarda
Typical of the mint family, red Monarda has a square stem. The leaves are opposite. The flowers are a deep maroon red. It makes a lovely, if pushy garden plant.

In another way the so-called tame Monarda is typical of the family. This is the mint family.

I obtained this red Monarada as a tiny plant, innocent looking. The fact that it is a mint never crossed my mind. I set it out in the flower section of my garden and ignored it.

That was several years ago. It is no longer ignored.

butterflies like garden variety Monarda
Monarda is a clump of tall, single stems from a single fibrous root system. At first the stems were a modest two feet tall. This year they are four feet tall and fill 2 square feet of space. Insects love them.

In typical mint fashion, this tiny plant has expanded into a large clump. It is not a short, pretty flower. It is four feet tall. At least it doesn’t have long runners.

I stopped to admire it late the other day. Bumblebees hummed tumbling from one flower to the next. A pipevine swallowtail butterfly hovered feeding on the different flowers. This was close to sunset so I’m sure other insects visit earlier in the day.

I do like having a flower corner in my garden as I have no time to do a regular one. Unfortunately it seems filled with tall, leggy plants now. Chicory, evening primrose and now garden variety Monarda hide my lilies and irises. They are nice. They are too numerous. The Monarda clump is getting too big. I guess I will have to work in the garden flower spot for a time this fall.

Swim In the Water

Summer temperatures make the creek and nearby river seem very inviting. Lots of people drive by on their way to swim in the water.

We watch them drive by with their children and dogs going there and back again. We stay home.

There is a creek running the length of our place. With all the rain the level is up a bit making some nice deep pools. When we first moved here, there were some pools deep enough to swim in the water.

The creek in summer
Shade, green and gravel, softly noisy water make sitting by the creek a nice pastime in the summer.

We were still close to being city people back then and found the resident fish and snakes intimidating. We did fill our solar shower to take daily baths. We had no house that first summer.

Although I do occasionally walk through the creek now, I don’t relax in it. Snapping turtles visit in early summer. They are hard to spot, cranky, with a mean bite.

Just because I don’t choose to swim in the water doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. Sitting in the shade over the creek usually includes a gentle, cool updraft. The bubbling, gurgling, rippling sounds of the creek are relaxing.

So many creatures live in the creek. Stepping on the stones will crush many of them. There may be an alternative.

This pool is deep enough to swim in the water
In the picture the creek doesn’t look very deep. The main channel is 18″ to 24″ deep for about twenty feet here. I plan to come back with some old sneakers and go wading in the water. Barefoot won’t work for me on slimy, snail covered rocks with crayfish and fish darting about.

No, it doesn’t include going to the river. Noise is part of going to the river for most people. Many of the people going down there are responsible. Others go down to party leaving shattered beer bottles scattered on the river bed. Other trash is left along the shore. As this area is private land, no one bothers to clean it up.

Instead I will walk along the creek. I seem to remember a few places with an overhanging bank and deep pools made for dangling feet. But I still don’t plan to swim in the water.

Relax by an Ozark creek in “My Ozark Home.”

Watching Wildlife

Since no dogs live here, watching wildlife is a fun pastime. Wildlife can be a problem, but seeing it is still a treat.

Raccoons and opossums generally come after dark. When they become a nuisance, the livetrap is set out and we see them in the trap before taking them elsewhere.

ground squirrel watching me
This ground squirrel might be looking for a new place to live, but the yard is definitely not a good choice. Foxes would find it a delicious morsel. These squirrels are cute creatures. I hope this one found its way to a safer territory.

Ground squirrels seem to be everywhere lately. These are belligerent characters when challenged. Mostly they are a blur crossing the road with their tails held straight up.

Watching wildlife on the road is important. Many dither or panic as the vehicle comes up. Snakes and turtles tend to stay put and need persuasion to get off the road.

copperhead snake on road
Copperheads are poisonous, true. Most are not aggressive and will take off given the chance. Their bites make my goats swell up, usually a leg, and hurt for a day or two. Then the swelling goes down and all is fine. In cooler weather snakes bask on the gravel road for the warmth. This includes green grass, black rat, hognose, ring and middlin brown as well as copperheads. It’s a great opportunity for looking at them as they lie still unless disturbed. I make sure they get off the road before driving on as so many people deliberately run over them.

The local coyotes have given us some special opportunities for watching wildlife. The coyotes tend to stay back on the hills and in the ravines away from the pastures and buildings making the areas safer.

Deer bed their fawns down in the tall grass in the pastures. One was next to the pasture gate and discovered when the goats went traipsing out.

watching wildlife as a fawn takes luck
A motionless fawn curled up in tall grass is a brown hump easily overlooked. Normally I see them as a small, white tail disappearing in the distance. This one stayed put as the goats and I tromped out past it, never seeing it. I saw it on my way in from the bridge.

Coyotes kill foxes making them rather rare in the area. One pair has moved by the house to raise their four kits.

This is the second year this pair has been here. Last year half of my hens disappeared. I am more careful this year and keep them up most of the time.

The fox family is very shy. Any hint we are around sends them into the brush. Luckily the house has lots of windows.

watching wildlife from inside the house keeps shy foxes in view
Grey foxes are like small dogs in size, about double a big house cat. They are pretty and fun to watch. The kits are growing up and mother fox is taking them out into the brush. She is very attentive to them, but demands immediate obedience.

The male fox sometimes curls up out in the back yard. His favorite spot is a ways out from the bathroom window making taking pictures easy. He does know I’m there, but doesn’t find me a threat as I am in the house.

One day the kits were out in the same area. Mother fox let them play a few minutes before leading them off across the yard and into the woods.

Watching wildlife is fascinating. It is also a matter or luck: being in the right place at the right time, camera in hand.

Looking At Caterpillars

This seems a summer destined to keep me from doing much walking due to an injured foot. Nature is all around me and I found myself looking at caterpillars. Lush vegetation invites these herbivores to gorge.

The cabbage worms and loopers on my cabbage along with cutworms made good meals for my pullets. They have begun clucking.

Most caterpillars are on wild plants. They can take careful searching to find. Usually I don’t search for them, but suddenly find myself looking at caterpillars right in front of me.

looking at caterpillars can find surprises
The Abbot’s Sphinx Moth caterpillar looks like someone was working on a mosaic with its light green tiles in a dark brown background.

That happened the other day. I was moving mulch hay from the barn to the garden. Since it was only a couple of armloads, I carried it. A strange looking object was lying on the ground.

Around here anything that doesn’t sound or look right bears investigation. I stopped to take a closer look. It turned out to be a very strange looking caterpillar.

Shape wise the caterpillar looked like a tomato horn worm without a tail. It had the same soft, bulbous body and a big shield on the rear end with an eye spot instead of a tail.

back end of the Abbot's Sphinx Moth caterpillar
Spinx moth caterpillars have this round thickened area on their rear end. It looks a little like an eye. On horn worms the tail spike sticks out of the center. On the Abbot’s Spinx Moth caterpillar only the eye is there.

The resemblance stopped there.

This caterpillar had a dull brown body covered with light green shields. It looked like it was tiled. These tiles covered the entire body.

I do have a Peterson Guide for caterpillars. It’s identification selection is limited. I don’t use it often finding looking at caterpillars is diverting only. This one was worth looking up.

Surprisingly the caterpillar was in the guide. It is the larva of the Abbot’s Sphinx Moth. There are two color forms of caterpillars for this moth. I’ve seen the brown form before, but didn’t look it up.

looking at caterpillars from the side
Pulling the Abbot’s Sphinx Moth caterpillar onto its side exposes the green patches there. this must be done carefully to avoid hurting the caterpillar.

This particular caterpillar will spend the summer eating and growing. It’s favorite foods include Virginia Creeper and Wild Grapes. Both grow abundantly around here and it is welcome to feast on them.

In the fall the caterpillar will burrow into soft dirt to form a brown pupa. Next spring the Abbot’s Sphinx Moth will crawl out of the pupa case, spread it’s wings and fly away.

Flowers Are Busy Places

In wildflower guidebooks the flowers are featured looking beautiful. Out in the wilds flowers are busy places.

Sometimes I take pictures of flowers and don’t discover the residents in them until later. Often the visitors are obvious. Either way I think they make the picture more interesting.

flowers are busy places for bees
Spring cress is a pretty flower and clumps grow down near the creek. This metallic green native bee was resting on a flower and warming up in the sun.

Insects are the creatures thought of first, especially bees. No one sprays our fields so there are lots of different kinds of bees and bumblebees. The green metallic ones are eye catchers.

Clear Wing Hawk Moth sips nectar from swamp milkweed flowers
Swamp milkweeds have lots of nectar. Clear Wing Hawk Moths visit each flower for a sip.

Flowers are busy places for many insects. Milkweeds make it easy to spot lots of butterflies, wasps and clear wing moths. Beetles lurk as they prefer plant sap to nectar. Flower spiders and assassin bugs lie in wait for an insect meal.

katydid nymphs are common visitors on flowers
Flowers have lots of delicious parts. The nectar is refreshing and sweet. The pollen and seed ovules are protein rich. Petals taste good too. At least katydid nymphs think so. This one is on a rough-fruited cinquefoil flower.

Tiny katydid nymphs like flowers too. They seem to like the pollen and nectar, but aren’t shy about nibbling on the petals. There are times when no flower has all its petals intact for a picture as lots of insects enjoy eating them.

tussock moth caterpillar on milkweed leaf
Some caterpillars are smooth. Then there are those like this milkweed tussock moth caterpillar decorated with white, red and black hair tufts. this one is busy devouring – what else? – a milkweed leaf.

The plants are busy places too. Ants tend aphid herds. Caterpillars devour leaves. Ticks stand poised to leap onto any animal passing by.

Plant stems have suds on them now. These suds surround the stem and are wet and slimy. Walking through tall pastures can leave pant legs liberally smeared with the stuff.

The suds are created by spittle bugs. Wiping the foam away reveals a homely creature busily dining on plant sap. These nymphs will grow up into frog hoppers.

Spittle bug with the foam wiped away
Frog Hopper nymphs are called spittle bugs because of the foam they cover themselves with to hide from predators. Their large heads and eyes which remain as the nymphs become adults give them their name.

Frog hoppers are like leaf hoppers and stab plant stems for the sap. The common leaf hoppers are thin. Frog hoppers have a wide head and thorax giving them a frog like appearance.

flowers are busy places for insects gathering nectar
Swamp milkweed flowers attract many insects including Monarch butterflies and bumblebees.

I’m glad flowers are busy places. An injured foot keeps me from going very far. Instead I can find a nice patch of flowers, sit down and enjoy the fragrances and the show.

Find out more about the natural Ozarks in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Special Sensitive Fern Find

When we first moved here, I came across a fern I didn’t recognize growing along the creek. It turned out I’d come across sensitive ferns.

There ferns got their name because they wither away at even the lightest frost. They like it warm and wet.

High water destroyed the ferns. Searching along the creek turned up no more sensitive ferns. There were other ferns to look at and admire.

On a walk up the road to a spring I came across another sensitive fern. Even though I’d not seen one for several years, it was unmistakable.

sensitive fern plant
Buried in grass and sedge, surrounded by blooming water cress, the unique color of a sensitive fern makes it easy to spot. This plant was on a hump next to the fence so it wasn’t growing in the water, but the soil was wet.

Sensitive ferns are larger than most reaching two feet high. Their fronds have a typical fern arrangement except for all the webbing or wings. The color is a spring green.

Unfortunately this fern was next to a culvert which the road department replaced. It got buried or dug up or both. Again the sensitive fern became only a memory.

The spring is cold water and flows year round feeding a small wetland area. Cattails, willows, spearmint and more live in the area. I pull on my boots and wade through from time to time.

sensitive fern frond
The winged effect is strongest toward the tip of a sensitive fern frond. A frond is one to two feet long and a foot wide toward the base.

This land is now part of a land trust. The family lives in the city. They come out to hunt turkeys and deer. And this spring they came out for a fun weekend. Fun for them.

The group ran their four wheelers and pickups up and down the creek and across the edges of the wetland. From the depth of the ruts, the four wheeler must have sunk almost too far to get out again.

My normal path was in ruins. I tried to make a new one and came close to leaving a boot in the mud. Finally I approached the fence where the water came in from the culvert. It’s easy to slip through between the barbs there.

The color was first to make me look. A line of sensitive ferns was growing strung along the fence. Maybe this time the ferns will survive for years.

Meet more Ozark wild plants in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Tadpole Time

Spring peeper frogs are one of the earliest sounds of spring in the Ozarks. Their calls indicate the beginning of tadpole time.

Frogs definitely disprove the quiet country myth. Spring peepers are only the beginning of the frog chorus that extends into early summer.

As different frogs and toads join the chorus, others drop out. The chorus changes song mostly in pitch.

This year a new voice joined the chorus for a few nights. We debated whether we heard a bird or a frog or ? It was a constant loud trill.

American Toad tadpoles provide tadpole time in a rain barrel
I think this an American Toad tadpole. It’s living in a rain barrel with lots of its siblings. These tadpoles don’t quietly eat or sun around the edges of the barrel. These tadpoles swim around and across the barrel.

Our road crew had seen a need for a shallow pond in the road across from the barn. In the morning I noticed some long strings in this muddy, ephemeral (We hope.) pond. On closer inspection these turned out to be eggs encased in clear slime, a hallmark of frog and toad eggs.

The trilling was from American toads. These are common here, but rarely seen. They like moist, shady places and are nocturnal.

Cars regularly drive by splashing through this pond tossing up fine clay mud which was coating the slime over the eggs. The slime protects the eggs and must let oxygen through. Mud defeats both purposes. I moved the eggs to some rain barrels.

Most of the eggs didn’t survive the mud. One barrel now hosts toad tadpoles. They are lively things speeding around and across the barrel.

grey treefrog tadpole
Grey treefrogs love some of the rain barrels around the house. They sit on the edges calling. A week later small tadpoles appear. By midsummer the tadpoles become tiny treefrogs and hop away.

Tree frogs now make up the chorus around the house. They like the rain barrels. Every year one or more discovers sitting in the end of the drain pipe amplifies their sound.

Tadpole time now includes three rain barrels full of tree frog tadpoles. This complicates mosquito control. I go by with an aquarium fish net and sweep mosquito larvae up. Dumped on the ground the larvae dry up and die. It doesn’t make much of a dent in mosquito populations in a wet year like this one, but I have to try. I don’t want to sweep up the tadpoles.

The tree frogs are selective about the barrels. There are nine scattered around the house. They choose three or four evidently based on temperature. They avoid those shaded most of the time or standing in the sun most of the time.

tadpole time includes bullfrogs in the creek
A jumble of rocks, cement and broken cement blocks give these bullfrog tadpoles good places to hide or sit out sunning. These hatched last year and are getting big, four to six inches long. They may become bullfrogs this year.

Down by the creek bridge I found evidence of more tadpole time. We hear the bullfrogs and the green frogs down along the creek. This year I came across some bullfrog tadpoles. They were from last year judging by their size.

Frog calling time becomes tadpole time. This summer tadpole time will become baby frog time. There will be plenty of mosquitoes for them to eat this year.

Frog and toad tadpoles aren’t the only ones in the ponds. Meet the spotted salamander tadpoles in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Finding Edible Mushrooms

There are several jelly mushrooms on dead branches after rain. I’ve looked at them for years never suspecting I was looking at some edible mushrooms.

Around the Ozarks morels rule. Chanterelles may have more recipes in the wild mushroom book. The one most sought after is chicken of the woods. No one mentions jelly mushrooms.

Jelly mushrooms are different. They look like colored pieces of gelatin with a strong skin. I see them in white, yellow and brown.

Brown jelly mushrooms are edible mushrooms
Brown jelly mushrooms are very different from what people picture when they think of mushrooms. Clusters of these appear on dead hardwood branches and trees after rain all summer. Their edges dry quickly as the air dries. They range from a half inch to several inches across.

In researching possible sources of wild food for the Carduans I looked up these mushrooms. The white and yellow ones are not edible. The brown ear variety are edible mushrooms.

A related species that looks like the brown ear ones here is popular in China as an ingredient for hot and sour soup. I was willing to give them a try.

When I’m not looking for these mushrooms, I see them here and there. When I am looking for them, they seem no where around. Where should I look?

Fallen trees and branches are a good place. The mushrooms are picky. They avoid sycamore. They seem to like oak and black walnut, I think.

A few were growing on a branch. I taste tested one. Bland. Chewy. Not bad, but definitely an ingredient, not on its own.

Rain is a common visitor here. Since it falls in small amounts, up to two inches, there are no floods. Instead the days are cool, moist to wet and perfect for many plants.

different edible mushrooms
Another name for a brown jelly mushroom is ear mushroom. Backlighting makes these mushrooms glow inside. They are firm to the touch. Their surface feels like soft cloth. Sliced open the inside is like firm gelatin.

I found a fallen tree, probably black walnut. It was covered with these edible mushrooms. I gathered a big handful to mix with greens and onions to stir fry for dinner.

Morels and chanterelles stir fry and sauté well. Button mushrooms from the market do as well.

I rinsed off the mushrooms, chopped the greens and onions. Once the pan and oil were hot, I tossed in the mushrooms and onions.

Jelly mushrooms are different. They hissed. They popped. They exploded into the air. Every time I stirred the pan, a new round began.

The mushrooms darkened and I tossed in the greens. The onions were done. The greens were done. How do I know if the mushrooms are done? Other than darkening, they didn’t change much.

The dish was edible, even tasty. The jelly mushrooms stayed chewy. Next time I’ll try soup.

More about Ozark mushrooms is found in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Watching Pawpaws Develop

Ozark springs are beautiful. They set the stage for summer bounty. I’m watching pawpaws in anticipation of late summer bounty.

Spring weather is tricky here. One year spring ushered in its warmth enticing the pawpaws into bloom. The temperature dropped into the twenties for a week and killed the crop.

watching pawpaws begins with flowers
Pawpaw flowers point down looking like dark red purple bells with green tops. They are pollinated by beetles and flies, not bees.

Summer thunder storms drop hit and miss rains around the Ozarks. Enough is spread around so most places get some. One summer had no storms, no rain, only heat. There was no crop.

Farmers are familiar with the watching game. Watching pawpaws isn’t a big deal as I don’t depend on the crop.

This spring has been cool and wet. The pawpaws are now in bloom. The watching and waiting game begins.

looking inside a pawpaw flower
From underneath a pawpaw flower the pistil with its surrounding blanket of stamens is visible. The pistil is ready for pollen before the stamens release their pollen to prevent self fertilization. The pistil is large enough to make using a paintbrush to scatter pollen easy as beetles and flies are not as reliable as bees.

It is May, after the frost date. There shouldn’t be frost. It could happen. The forecasts don’t hint at such a catastrophe.

There’s a lot of rain. Pawpaws like that. The trees grow in ravines above the creeks. Enough moisture assures large pawpaws.

Summer is coming. It could be hot and dry. Heat isn’t a big problem for pawpaws as the trees grow in shade cast by other, taller trees.

Drought is a problem for all plants and creek residents. The creek sinks into the gravel leaving pools along its length forcing fish into concentrated areas good for predation, bad for survival. Leaves hang wilted. They may turn color and fall.

watching pawpaws ends with fruits
The petals drop away and tiny pawpaw fruits begin to grow. This will be a cluster of three fruits. Another cluster had seven which seems to be the maximum. Singles do occur. The fruits increase in size over the summer and ripen the end of August into September.

Pawpaws stay small. They are barely edible when they ripen. This disappoints lots of consumers: foxes, raccoons, opossums, squirrels and me.

So far the crop looks promising. The future crop is only half an inch long now. When ripe the pawpaws will be four to six inches long. The best ones will have deep yellow flesh full of pineapple banana custard goodness. The ravines are full of trees known to produce such premium pawpaws.

Pawpaws ripen about September. For the next three plus months I will be watching pawpaws.

Find out more about pawpaws in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Wild Cresses Are Blooming

Older people around this area remember gathering wild greens. Some of those were the wild cresses.

The popular one today is watercress. It even shows up in gardening catalogs with instructions how to grow it.

Watercress is an alien species brought here long ago. It has spread both by seeds and by cuttings. Yes, nature can do cuttings.

wild cresses include watercress
Watercress sometimes seems to be a pest. It forms large mats in quiet areas of six to eight inches of cool water. The taste is always tangy, but gets very bitter and sharp once the plant blooms.

The stems of watercress are brittle and root at every leaf node. Floods break off stems, carry them downstream and these root to form new colonies.

Look for watercress in flowing cold water. I find it in spring fed streams and a wetland across from a spring. It forms large mats sometimes towering a foot over the water.

The most colorful one blooming now is yellow rocket or winter cress. The rosette of leaves persist through much of the winter and are edible. In spring stems shoot up lined and topped with bright yellow flowers.

wild cresses include yellow rocket
Yellow rocket or winter cress sends up numerous stems topped with vivid yellow flowers. This makes a good potherb before it flowers.

These grow in lawns and along roads. One stretch of my road is lined with yellow rocket and is lovely filled with the bright color.

Near and in shallow cold water is the spring cress. Like watercress, spring cress has white flowers.

These are smaller plants, often single stems with an array of flowers at the top. The stem keeps growing so more flowers appear leaving the older ones to make seeds. This plant seems to set seeds and almost disappear like the spring ephemerals.

wild cresses include spring cress
Spring cress usually has only one stalk. The white is brilliant against the green background. The plant likes its feet wet and grows in boggy areas or shallow water.

Several things are similar about these cresses. The flowers all have four petals. The leaves are deep green with ruffled edges. The seed pods are long capsules with many seeds in them. All of them are edible.

Wild cresses, there are many more than three, are among many plants found in the mustard family. We grow some members in our gardens: cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale and mustards among them.

Wild cresses are best eaten before they bloom. All of them are peppery any time but add a bit of bitterness when they bloom. All are nutritious.

Finding New Plant Names

New plants turn up in well traveled places. Some are brand new to plant lists. I find ones I’ve never seen before. Either way, new plant names are needed.

A couple of weeks ago I had to walk around in town. Out of habit, I watched for plants in bloom and saw several. Spring beauty, grape hyacinths, chickweed, dead nettle and henbit were among them.

One I didn’t recognize was covered with red purple blooms. It was a small plant, a few inches tall. It had lacy leaves and hairy stems.

finding plant names uses leaf arrangments
The plant is low, only six inches tall. It’s numerous stems sprawl across the ground. Flowers bloom from along and at the tips of the stems. This fits lots of plants as do the lacy leaves.

Lots of plants fit this description. Finding new plant names is difficult when sorting through a pile of them with no idea how to narrow the search.

There were no seed pods on the plants. I made a note of where to find one patch so I could come back to see the seed pods.

finding plant names uses the flower arrangements
The flowers are a half inch across. They have five petals and five sepals. The center is a conical mound topped with the anthers and styles. Lots of flowers have five petals and five sepals. Lots of flowers are the purple these are. Finding the name can be difficult. Once the group is determined, the similarities to others in the group become obvious.

In the meantime I planned to check out the flowers on http://www.missouriplants.com, my go to place for new plant names. All you really need to know is the color of the flower and whether the leaves are alternate or opposite. Then you scroll through the thumbnail pictures until you find the flower.

Like so many good intentions in the spring, this one got shoved aside by more pressing matters.

An opportunity presented itself for me to race out and check this plant for seed pods. I found the patch and sat down to check the plant and stared.

finding plant names became easy after seeing the seed pod
The seed pod was the clincher for me. The somewhat bulbous base and long stalk is typical of the various crane’s bill group in the geranium family. It is the source of the common names for the plant as well.

It couldn’t be! These distinctive seed pods couldn’t belong to this plant, or could they? They did and I knew the group this plant belonged with: crane’s bills.

Another crane’s bill, the Carolina Crane’s Bill, grows near the driveway on my road and in nearby areas. The seed pod is a definite identification of the group, no other group has anything like it.

Carolina crane's bill flower
Carolina Crane’s Bill has lovely pink flowers a half inch across topping a scraggly plant that can reach a foot tall. It is a typical geranium flower, but much smaller than the commercial ones.

Finding new plant names can be much easier if the group is known, the geranium family in this case. This little plant has the common name Stork’s Bill. It is the introduced one originally from Europe.

Ozarks Spring Finery

As soon as spring temperatures start shoving winter out of the Ozarks spring finery begins to pop up. People driving by think this means the redbuds and dogwoods are in bloom. They should get out of their vehicles and go walking.

white violet blooming
The old song may say violets are blue and some are, but may are other colors like this white or striated violet. Unlike the common blue violet, white violets have short stems and grow almost a foot tall. The plants bloom profusely all summer along damp, shaded roadsides and in ravines or along creeks.

All the spring wildflowers are rushing their flowers out. White, yellow, blue, Johnny Jump Up and bird’s foot violets are among them. The blue and white ones will bloom much of the spring into summer. The Johnny Jump Up, yellow and bird’s foot will bloom for a few weeks and vanish until next year.

Bloodroot was scarce when we moved here. It’s popular with herb diggers. Now I see it back in the ravines, even along the road. They show for the morning and fade away by noon.

Pale Corydalis flowers
The first year I noticed these feathery plants with their yellow flowers, I saw only a few. Now Pale Corydalis plants show up in the lawn and along the road. They could be considered weeds, but bloom for a short time and vanish. It makes more sense to enjoy their yellow trumpets.

Pale corydalis is one of those bits of spring finery that get overlooked easily. The plants are small and feathery. The flowers are half inch long tubes. Walking along the bright yellow catches the eye.

I like the deep color of rose verbena. It’s common along parts of the road and near the creek and easily spotted. It’s rose purple sets off the nearby orange puccoon.

yellow spring finery orange puccoon
Like the daffodils the orange puccoon is a bright flower. The color ranges from yellow to orange. The plants are normally six or seven inches tall and less than a foot across. I find them on a road cut where the soil is poor and prone to erosion. They grace the area for a month or so then vanish.

These named flowers are only a taste of what is blooming and coming into bloom. There are a couple of dozen out now. The flowers are serious business for the plants that want to set seed to begin another generation of plants. They flaunt their colors and shapes and scents for the insects.

redbuds are pink spring finery
The redbud is a small tree and prefers to grow under cover of oaks and hickories. It does grow out by itself. The flowers emerge from the twigs, branches and trunks in thick clumps surrounding the wood with color. The flowers are edible with a nutty, bit of sweet taste.

All these colors are missed by the people driving by. They can admire the redbuds. These interesting trees put out their pink slippers from their branches and trunks.

They should notice the many wild plums filled with white blossoms. Sassafras is harder to spot as their yellow flowers are much smaller in smaller clusters.

In another week the dogwoods will begin blooming. Then the Ozark woods will be dressed in pink and white spring finery to celebrate the season.

Admire more photographs of Ozark wildflowers in “My Ozark Home.”

Watching Speckled King Snakes

Spring has mostly arrived in the Ozarks. The snakes are out including the speckled king snakes.

People usually think of black rat snakes when they think about rat and mouse control. Many decide to leave these alone as they will eat other snakes such as copperheads.

Speckled king snakes are similar to black rat snakes. Both eat rats and mice. Both are constrictors, squeezing their prey. Both live in similar places. Black rat snakes get bigger.

two speckled king snakes entwined
These two speckled king snakes rolled over and over wrapped around each other. A pair last year did this for over an hour.

In spring these snakes come out during the day. Speckled kings are shy and flee before being spotted much of the time. I see their tails disappearing into the grass.

I’ve heard speckled kings don’t make good pets. I don’t think any snakes make good pets, but a cousin did. He had a black rat snake. It was used to being handled and was the first snake I ever touched.

Snake scales are cool, dry and smooth to the touch. They seem waxed.

Once summer weather arrives the snakes stay in cool places during the day. Evening and night are the times they come out looking for food. Except in my hen house.

The black rat snakes stay under the wood floor of the barn. They have plenty of mice to snack on. Still, they find eggs irresistible. I’m slowly remodeling to discourage their visits.

speckled king snakes in grass
These two speckled king snakes had been entwined, possibly mating as this is the right time. Moments later the smaller male took off followed by the larger female.

Speckled king snakes never seem to be in the barn. They do come through my garden. Most commonly they are out in the pastures.

Regardless of where the snakes are found around the house or barn, they are rarely killed. A couple showed up in my pantry and were moved outside. Snakes are far too valuable as mouse and rat control to harm.

The big problem with the snakes is that they maintain their body temperature by sunning so they don’t need a lot of food. They don’t eat enough mice.

The wildflowers are blooming in the Ozarks. Enjoy pictures and commentary about some of them in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

My Ozark Creek Talking

Spring is attempting to invade the Ozarks. Walking along an Ozark creek is relaxing. Unlike in poems, my Ozark creek does not babble, not all the time.

During the height of the growing season walking along an Ozark creek is a difficult feat. Vegetation is thick and tall. Vines tie it together. Now only the bushes and trees are still there. They can impede progress a little.

Ozark creek rushing by
Water races down the runway with a rushing sound as though it were highway traffic flowing by. Ozark creeks with gravel beds often have sharp drops in elevation and these sluices go from a pool above to the swiftly flowing creek below.

Walking along the creek I could see its many character changes. Some places are placid moving sheets of water. Other places race down sluices. Fallen logs and rocks can narrow the channel. Part of the channel is deep. Most of it is shallow.

Each character change brings a different sound.

Ozark creek glugs and foams
Not tall enough to be a waterfall, water still drops over an obstruction into a hole with glug, glug, glug. The water below the hole foams up and over sounding like a small ocean wave foaming its way up the sand.

Placid areas are quiet. The sheet of water flows quickly by almost silently. It has a soft slipping sound. Rocks sticking up create tiny gurgles. In warm weather the minnows will jump creating plops. The wind ripples the surface into tiny moving eddies.

These quiet areas often end in gravel sluices. Water races down creating a rushing sound almost like highway traffic. If the gravel is large, the creek babbles as it races down the slope.

Ozark creek babbles over rocks
Where an Ozark creek flows over and around rocks of various sizes, it does babble. This is a combination of rushing, gurgling and glugging sounds that ebb and flow as the water moves from one to the next obstruction.

Stretches of fast moving water with large rocks scattered around gurgles. Smaller rocks cause high, soft gurgles. Large rocks cause deep gurgles.

Some places have obstructions. Water leaps over and into a deeper place beyond. The water there foams over the water arriving. There is a deep sound like water making a whirlpool in an emptying bathtub with a rushing sound over it.

Ozark creek pool
Broad pools are great places to sit near and relax. The water slips by almost silently. The sun plays on the ripples. The constant movement of the water with its ripples and eddies quiets the mind.

Walking along my Ozark creek is not boring. The creek is talking all the time. The conversation shifts as I walk by.

These conversations are as varied as the creek bed the water is flowing down on its mad rush to the river a half mile away.

Meet my creek and its denizens in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Snowfall Number Five Arrives

Snowfall, snowfall number five,

Who invited you to come

Spoiling dreams of spring and sun,

Leaving toes and fingers numb?

Snowfall, snowfall number five,

You are not welcome today.

March brings spring and flowers and rain.

Blankets white and cold away!

Snowfall number five ices cardinal's perch
Snowfall number five began with a layer of ice leaving birds with cold perches in the trees. This female cardinal is puffed up to keep warmer in the cold and waiting for her turn eating at the bird feeder.

Snowfall, snowfall number five,

Leaving birds to hunt for food,

Shiver, frozen water too.

Mean and cruel I must conclude.

Snowfall number five buries sparrow's food
Sparrows hop along the ground finding weed seeds and other morsels to eat. Snowfall number five left them looking in vain. The bird feeder became a popular spot.

Snowfall, snowfall number five,

Be the last to come by here.

Spring is due so let it come.

Have a heart and give us cheer.

Reports from other places makes our five little snowfalls look like nothing much. Only a few times has the temperature dropped to near zero and never below. The cold spells last a week and warmer times return.

Ozark winters usually aren’t that bad. I remember some up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and know why we moved.

One of the things that didn’t move with us is the clothing. In places with cold winters, wool clothes are common and warm. They are only available by catalog in the Ozarks. Cotton isn’t nearly as warm.

Warm boots aren’t as easy to find around here either. Cold feet leave me cold no matter how warmly I dress otherwise.

Snowfall number five scattered snow on the hills and rocks along the creek.
Snowfall number five dropped three inches. Wind blew much of it off the hills. Enough was left to put a white backdrop behind the trees. Quiet areas of the creek had a skin of ice.

Snow may be fun for some people. In town one road is blocked off as it goes down a great sledding hill. Snowball fights, building snowmen and other activities are fun too.

Milking and chores are not fun done slogging through the snow. My barn door is on the north side and the snow soon packs into ice. Maybe I can find snap on cleats for my boots.

Better yet, warm sun melts the snow and the ice. Then I get to slog through mud for a few days. Still, I prefer mud and so do the animals including my cabin fevered chickens and goats.

Enjoy more pictures of Ozark winters in “My Ozark Home.”

Anticipating Spring

It is still February, a long winter month in the Ozarks. The days are getting longer, the sun higher in the sky. The weather is anticipating spring.

Winter clouds are sheets of gray covering the sky. There are still plenty of those. Puffy, warmer weather clouds are starting to appear.

approaching spring changes clouds from stratus to cumulus
The grey stratus clouds sheeting the Ozark sky have moved on leaving warm weather cumulus puffs to move across. The sun is below the hills but hasn’t started setting enough to color these clouds.

Trees are bare. Mosses rule the world of green on the forest floor. In open areas the ground is anticipating spring.

The yard is a carpet of tiny , blue flowers. Corn speedwell is blooming madly on any sunny, warmer day.

Birds still mob the bird feeder seeking food hard to find in the wild. The birds argue, they sit in the bushes and trees and sing. They are anticipating spring.

approaching spring warmth brings out yellow in the sunset
Sunsets aren’t very pretty without clouds. Puffy clouds are nice as they light up with a variety of colors. A storm has just passed so yellow is the predominant color this late winter’s night in the Ozarks.

Now the yard has a few robins, a bluebird or two. The sky again has vultures circling. Great skeins of geese honk as they fly north. The juncos are eating madly, getting fat for their migration north next month.

February is a winter month. In the Ozarks no season reigns supreme for long. Masses of warm and cold air vie for mastery of the skies anticipating spring.

A few warm days spread spring fever among the plants and animals. Cold pounces down on this telling one and all winter still rules.

approaching spring brings out early wildflowers
Who waits for spring to bloom? Not little corn speedwell. This low growing plant native to Europe often blooms between snow falls in mid to late winter, if the sun is warm.

Cold air is heavy and stubborn. Warm air slips in to displace it. The battle of the seasons continues.

March comes soon bringing spring on the calendar. The war will continue as neither winter nor spring conform to such an artificial timetable.

Unfortunately for winter, time and sun move on. Winter’s reign is waning for yet another season. Winter will soon be in retreat.

Anticipating spring will become knowing spring has come. Winter will become a memory for months.

A new adversary will enter the seasonal war: summer.

Enjoy photographs of Ozark seasons in “My Ozark Home.”

Snow Days Drag By

Winter is not my favorite season. Most of the things I like to do can’t be done on snow days.

One thing I can do is go outside and look at the snow. Sunny days look great for doing this, but light cloud cover is better.

Snow looks white because if reflects almost all of the light shining on it. After spending some time out looking at snow scenes on a sunny day, everything looks dark inside as the eyes try to recover from the onslaught of reflected light. Even sunglasses don’t help a lot.

Snow days have snow on everything
Moving water has no snow on it. Slow moving water can ice over. The creek has started a gravel bar under the bridge and snow sits on it.

Snow may look inviting on a sunny day. It’s still cold. The snow is cold. The air is cold. The snow will melt onto the boots.

I wandered down and out into the pasture below the barn lot. Snow days are pretty until the snow starts to melt and sinks into ice.

This snow did fall in cold temperatures. For a time the flakes were in clumps an inch or two across. Most of the time it fell as tiny ice spheres. These packed together into a heavy, dense snow layer.

Snow days leave the creek flowing between snowy banks
The creek is such a lovely place to go, except when the banks are covered with snow. Snow looks nice for a few hours. then it makes the place look cold and dreary.

Footprints or tire tracks left ice. Sun melted the base layer into ice. Town beckoned, but I stayed home and looked out the windows or tramped to the barn and looked at the snow.

There’s something about snow days. There are lists of things to work on. There are piles of books waiting to be read. There are several writing projects including rewriting “The Carduan Chronicles.”

snow days leave snow on trees
Snow does make bare winter trees look dramatic. Don’t stand underneath when the sun shines or the snow may drop onto you.

It isn’t boredom. It’s a restless feeling leaving me casting about for something to hold my interest.

What I really want to do is go outside and walk. The snow is waiting for me with pretty vistas. Trudging through snow in heavy boots ruins a walk while keeping the feet warm and dry.

So I stay inside most of the time. And the snow days drag by.

Puzzling Out Beggar Ticks

After going through the plant pictures for last year, I find I’ve completed pictures for 330 plants. This is deceptive. I’ve actually completed pictures for more plants, but don’t know what they are. This leaves me puzzling out beggar ticks among others.

There are ten species listed for Dent county and two others possibly here. I have completed pictures for four or five of these. I don’t know which ones.

bush beggar ticks flowers
Many beggar tick plants are genus Desmodium. This plant is a bush. The flowers fit the regular plan. The seed pod is single, but looks like a beggar tick.

How is that possible? With beggar ticks, genus Desmodium, family Fabaceae, this is easy. The flowers look a lot alike. Many of the plants look a lot alike.

Most flowers are a plum pink. They have two petals standing up and overlapping a bit or fused. These have greenish white teardrops at the base with a dark red purple border.

The other petals form a slipper sticking out. This may be closed around the stamens and pistil. It might not be. One characteristic to look for.

pink beggar ticks flower
This is yet another variation on a beggar ticks flower. The white parts of the eyes are missing. The slipper is open. The flowers are scattered along the stalk. Surely this one will be easy to identify. If I keep looking.

Flowers can be small and close together down a long stem. They can be larger and spaced out. Puzzling out which is which is difficult.

The leaves are in sets of three leaflets. These can be long and narrow or short and round. They can be sharply pointed or have blunt tips. Some plants are a mix.

The plants are often several stems from a central rootstock. At least one is a bush.

white beggar ticks flowers
Most beggar ticks flowers are some shade of pink. These are white. They are lining the flower stalk. They do have the little eyes at the base of the upright petals. They should be in the genus Desmodium.

Seed capsules referred to as beggar ticks are the other important item. Usually there are several seed capsules in a string. Usually these are covered with short, stiff hairs so the capsules stick to fur or clothing. Some strings are fewer than five, Some are more than five.

This is often my problem. I get pictures of the plant, leaves and flowers, but don’t find the same plant to get pictures of the seed capsules. I’m left puzzling out beggar ticks missing a vital piece of information.

Are you confused yet?

There are keys. I work my way through them slowly referring to the glossary for terms and still taking a guess.

beggar ticks seed pods
Beggar ticks are larger than the small football shaped beggar lice. The flat pods are covered with short hairs and attach to passing fur or clothes immediately. The strings often break up as they are pulled off. Different kinds have slightly different shapes and numbers of pods in a row.

There are pictures online. I take a notebook, look each one up and sketch the flowers, stems, leaves and seed capsules noting special characteristics. Once I have all of these done, I will work my way through my pictures.

As the beggar ticks get going this year, I’m ready. I have marking tape. I will tag the plants I’m working on so I know which is which when I go back for seed capsule pictures.

I’m tired of puzzling out which beggar ticks are which.

Promise of Spring

January thaw came a week or so late this year. That’s fine as long as it gets here with its mild days, a respite in winter that all enjoy. It’s a promise of spring.

The first wildflowers are trying to bloom. Dead nettle was blooming in the garden last month. Corn speedwell had a flower or two open today. These are another promise of spring.

melting ice is a promise of spring
The ice fangs and columns have fallen during January thaw. Some would like this to announce spring. I prefer February to finish out as winter and see the season to a close on time.

I went walking as the day was too nice to spend working. But I did have a chore I had forgotten to do.

For years a yellow honeysuckle has grown over the rocks above the creek. It’s the only one I’ve ever found here until last year.

A yellow honeysuckle grew, bloomed and set seed along the road last summer. I collected four seeds to set out on the hill over the creek near where the one lonely plant grows.

This lovely day those seeds finally got out and planted. I don’t know if any will grow, but one promise of spring is that seeds will grow.

armadillos need a promise of spring with abundant grubs to eat
Many people don’t like these ancient animals. I find them interesting. Armadillos are now regular Ozark residents and often bulldoze through the dry leaves on winter days as they do not hibernate and must find food every day.

The acorns have been getting a head start on spring. Last fall was an acorn bonanza. There are still many on the ground and some have sprouted.

Most of the small sprouts dry up and die. I hate to see this, but it is part of how things work. The woods can’t hold that many oak trees. Even among those acorns that do survive, many young trees will die in a few years as the larger trees block the sun and absorb the water.

sprouting acorns are a promise of spring
The acorns are sprouting. Most will perish. A few will become saplings. Fewer will grow to trees. A couple will become large trees. Each acorn is a bundle of hope and a bundle of food for squirrels, turkeys, deer and more.

One of the problems my fictional Carduans must solve is that of food. Looking at all the acorns on the ground, I began wondering about eating them. Right after lunch this thought wasn’t very serious, mostly curiosity. So I found one still intact and dug out some of the interior nut. Very bitter.

Of course the Indians washed the flour with hot water to leach the tannic acid out and make the flour palatable. And they weren’t spoiled with sweetners. Perhaps I will give acorns another chance this fall and wash the acid out. Fresh nuts washed free of acid might make a big difference.

See more pictures of the Ozark springs in “My Ozark Home.”

Special Morning Light

Six degree mornings don’t have much going for them in my opinion. They need all the help they can get. If conditions are just right, special morning light can be that help.

Winter mornings are not sunrise mornings for me. The wood stove goes out around three in the morning. Dawn brings a cold house.

Sunrises are left to themselves as the floors are swept and the fire started in the stove. Only after that are winter mornings looked at.

By this time whatever colors might have appeared for the sunrise are gone. Since winter mornings are overcast more often than not anymore, the color change is from purplish black to blue gray. I don’t find this very impressive.

special morning light sets off the trees
No picture really captures how special morning light sets off the trees along my Ozark creek when cold temperatures coat them in ice. Only some trees glow like this. I think it is a combination of the sun’s angle and where I’m standing that creates this moment. I’m glad it does.

Now and then the sun puts in an appearance which is special morning light all by itself. Such occurrences must be spotted without forecasting help. This winter seems determined to prove the forecasters wrong about cloud cover as much as possible. The clouds simply refuse to leave.

Clear mornings are a double edged sword. It’s wonderful to see the sun and have a sunny morning or, even more rarely, a sunny day. Having no cloud cover lets the temperatures drop.

So the temperature dropped to six degrees. The moisture on the trees froze encasing them in a thin coating of ice. And the sun started sliding up over the eastern hill.

special morning light sets off ice stalactites
This winter has formed magnificent ice stalactites and columns on the bluff rocks along the road. Some are only a foot long. The biggest are easily six feet. Early in the morning the ice glows in the sunlight. What I’m looking at is that great shelter under the rock overhang. The Carduans find a similar an overhang.

Ice is clear. Like water, ice has no color. The trees shimmered as light refracted through the ice turning the trees into crystal works of art.

Less than five minutes and the light show is over. The sun is up over the hill. The ice is melting in the trees.

Like sunrises and sunsets, special morning light is fleeting. Catching a glimpse of it makes even a six degree morning special.

Relax reading about the Ozark seasons in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Snow Colors at Night

January is bringing snow to the Ozarks. It is bringing colder weather with it. That means the couple of inches of snow stays through the night and I could notice some snow colors at night.

During the day snow is a bluish gray to dirty white, if the sky is clouded over. It turns a blinding white in the sun.

What about at night?

I’d assumed it would be dark as the night is dark. Perhaps it is at new moon. As the moon approaches full, snow is not dark at night. It’s not only not dark, but glows in snow colors.

snow colors during the day are mostly white
During the day elephant toe seed heads hold white snow caps. Once night falls the caps may be blue, if they are still there.

I milk at night during the winter. There is a light at the house and lights in the barn. Some of the walk is done using a flashlight.

One of the other additions to winter night milking is carrying buckets of water. It seems, no matter how many buckets I cart to the goats during the day, they are not enough. So I set buckets in the milk room for the goats to get a drink before going back in the barn.

The snow fell early in the day. The clouds moved in to stay for days. Setting up for evening milking, I grabbed my flashlight and a bucket and started out of the barn.

I put the flashlight back.

snow colors during the day are mostly white
White snow sets off the buckbrush berries during the day. By nightfall the snow will be gone although the berries will still be waiting for a bird to come by to eat them.

The snow was a blue glow across the ground. There weren’t any shadows, only this blue. It was bright enough to walk around without any additional light.

The clouds held sway for another day just to spite the forecasters. Again I enjoyed walking in that blue glow on the snow.

Finally the clouds began breaking up late the next day. This night I opened the barn door and the blue glow was gone. A whiter glow replaced it.

If we get more snow near new moon, I will have to check out the snow colors at night then.

Enjoy the views of “My Ozark Home” in my new book.

Warm Winter Brings Cement Snow

A bit of snow finally arrived this winter for the Ozarks. The thermometer sat about thirty-four degrees as the snow fell, perfect for cement snow.

Snow is interesting stuff. It forms below freezing and drifts down. The type of snow depends on the temperature.

Up north snow fell with temperatures in the teens. Tiny bits of white from thin clouds seemed to never end, piling up for inches. The bits were like grains of sugar and poured from the hand like it too. They squealed underfoot as we walked across them.

rabbit tracks in cement snow

Rabbit tracks are among the easiest to recognize as the two front feet land together and the two back feet separately giving a triangle pattern. In cement snow the feet punch straight down to the ground.

When the temperatures were in the twenties, the snow often fell as flakes. These are the patterns for children’s paper cut outs. The clouds were heavier, but still thin enough to make out where the sun was. This snow crunched underfoot.

yucca leaves in cement snow

Yucca leaves roll their edges in for cold weather. Cement snow isn’t cold enough so the leaves poke out through it.

The snow in the Ozarks is different. Temperatures are often near freezing as the snow falls. The flakes can be clumps that splat on the ground. Stepping on this snow squashes it down, making it appear wet. It is wet. This is cement snow.

Water is heavy, eight pounds to the gallon. Cement snow is heavy too, close to that eight pounds a gallon.

cement snow on rocks

Mosses, ferns and other plants like columbine depend on snow to add moisture to their perches on the rocks. This exposed piece of bluff rock is full of cracks and crevices.

Cold snows are easy to shovel. Lesser depths sweep easily off walkways with brisk swooshes of the broom. Deeper amounts push easily with a snow shovel or are light to toss out of the pathway.

Cement snow sticks to the shovel. It mounds up quickly sticking itself into those mounds. Every scoop must be pounded on the ground to remove the lumps. Some need manual shoving. It is exhausting work.

cement snow feeds Ozark creek

Cement snow means water for this Ozark creek. It is up making large languid pools, but the residents are tucked into deep places trying to keep a bit warm.

Only a few inches of this potential heart attack trigger fell. My regular pathways are mostly melted into muddy trails. The roads have long stretches bare of snow.

The biggest disappointment with cement snow is how it looks. It lacks the charm of colder snows.

The advantage with this snow is how fast it melts once the sun reappears.

Read more about snow and floods in the Ozarks in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Invasive Plants Everywhere

It’s strange how I forget to take some pictures for so many plants. My quest to fill in these blanks took me back to ShawneeMac Lakes where I also found several invasive plants.

What is an invasive plant? It’s a plant usually from some other country that is now spreading through native habitats.

How do these invasive plants get here? Some arrive by accident. Colonists brought over crop seed to plant and the invasive plants were mixed in. These are such plants as the plantains, shepherd’s purse, corn speedwell and many other common weeds.

invasive plants include Oriental bittersweet

The native bittersweet and the Oriental bittersweet are very similar in appearance and seeds. The Oriental is very aggressive and can kill the trees it climbs. I’m not sure which this is and will check the flowers this spring.

Another way such plants arrive is by invitation. Some are herbs or edible and are brought over as crops. Some are pretty and gardeners bring them over to decorate their gardens.

Once growing, plants flower and produce seeds. The seeds scatter growing into new plants. Consider the dandelion and how many seeds one plant produces.

Walking around the trail at ShawneeMac I was not concerned with invasive plants. I had a list of plants I needed winter bud pictures for. Even though I knew about where to find these plants, I’m always on the lookout for new ones.

invasive plants include Japanese honeysuckle

Japanese honeysuckle flowers have a wonderful scent that hangs in the air around the vines. It blooms for months. It covers fences, other plants and buildings.

Japanese honeysuckle is an invasive plant. It can be a terrible problem piling up over native plants, smothering them under thick vines and leaves that stay green through the winter. There is a lot of this at ShawneeMac Lakes.

The little vine climbing up the side of a tree was a bit similar with opposite green leaves. It wasn’t Japanese honeysuckle. Those leaves have smooth edges. These had teeth. The winter bud is different too. I took pictures to look it up later.

invasive plants include wintergreen vines

Gardeners like wintergreen as a ground cover in shady areas. It spreads into wild areas and climbs trees and shrubs burying them under foliage.

The American holly plants are pretty this time of year. The hawthorn had nice buds on it. One of the hazelnuts still had a few nuts on it.

When I first saw this plant, I noticed the red seeds with wings over them. There are a number of plants with such seeds including the wahoo tree. But this wasn’t that plant. I took some pictures of bark, bud, twig and seed to look up later.

invasive plants include burning bush

Burning bush is easily recognized by the wings on its twigs. It makes a nice hedge when trimmed. In wild areas it spreads by seed crowding out native shrubs.

I knew about the bittersweet vines. There are two similar ones. One is a native plant. The other is an invasive Oriental vine. I tend to think the ones at ShawneeMac lakes are the invasive one, but won’t be sure until spring when the vines flower.

Once home I took out “Shrubs and Woody Vines” from the Missouri Department of Conservation. That vine seems to be wintergreen, as invasive species. The bush is burning bush, also an invasive plant.

Invasive plants grow wherever they can find a place. More than these few find a place at ShawneeMac Lakes.