Missouri's Savannas and Woodlands

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

the plow, and their droughty soil helped maintain their open nature.

Fire was crucial in the historical development of Missouri's savanna and woodland heritage. Today the Conservation Department and other conservation organizations and agencies use prescribed fire to help restore savannas and woodlands. Other restoration options include cutting woody species, such as red cedar and elms, and in some cases seeding characteristic forb species. Initially, restoration efforts may appear ugly and untidy, often looking like a war zone, but after about five years of work the native plants and animals spring back to life with renewed vigor and a greater diversity of species.

Many of our savannas and woodlands with persisting tree cover have lost their native groundcover due to overgrazing and seeding of non-native cool-season grasses, such as tall fescue. Areas with potential for restoration occur on dry, rocky sites with old, open-grown post or chinkapin oaks. Between these trees an understory of young trees and shrubs may occur, but the presence of native grasses and forbs in the ground layer indicate the presence of a once productive natural community. Like Missouri's tallgrass prairies and wetlands, our savannas and woodlands are endangered ecosystems worthy of conserving.

Where to See Savannas and Woodlands on Public Lands

Several sites on Missouri public lands offer the opportunity to experience a savanna or woodland in the process of restoration. Whether hunting, bird watching, or hiking, these natural communities provide benefits to all who enjoy the outdoors. For best native wildflower viewing, visit these areas in June or late August.

Peck Ranch Conservation Area - Take a hike along the 9.5 miles of the Ozark Trail that winds through this 22,948-acre area located in Carter County. Sections of the trail along Mule Hollow and through Stegall Mountain Natural Area offer the best chance to view igneous and chert woodlands, along with igneous and dolomite glades.

To reach the area, travel 5 miles east of Winona on County Road H to the entrance sign. Turn east and travel 7 miles down the gravel entrance road to the area headquarters. For further information and a brochure of the site, write Wildlife Regional Supervisor, Ozark Regional Office, P.O. Box 138, West Plains 65775, or phone (417) 256-7161.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park - In spring and summer you can see blooms of puccoon and royal catchfly beneath scattered blackjack, post and white oaks along the Acorn

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