Forests on the Fringe

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2001

hickory, are common on better soils. Post and blackjack oak, and black and pignut hickory, are found on dry sites. Several southern oaks are at the northern extent of their range in the Ozarks. Southern red oak, swamp chestnut oak, water oak, Nuttall oak and willow oak are more common in the forests of the southern United States.

Shortleaf pine, Missouri's only native pine, grows in the Ozarks. It once dominated much more of the Ozark landscape than it does today. The appeal of quick profits from milling the big pines attracted eastern lumbermen to the Ozarks in the late 19th century. The pine was cut for building material and the oak for railroad ties. By the 1920s, most of the Ozarks had been cut over. Past land practices of livestock grazing and wildfires prevented shortleaf pine from regenerating, and oak took its place. Today we know that certain sites where oak is found today should be returned to pine to improve the health of the forest.

Missouri probably has more glades than any other state, and most of these glades are found in the Ozarks. Glade comes from the Old English "glad," meaning a shining place, which a glade may seem to someone after a long hike in the woods. Glades are areas of thin soil and exposed bedrock. They are usually found on steep south- and west-facing slopes. The plants growing on glades must endure environmental extremes, from heat and frost heaving to drought and soil saturation.

The plant community found on glades is similar to that of prairies. Stunted trees of winged elm, redcedar, post oak, blackjack oak and sumac may be found on the edges of glades. Glade openings grow or shrink depending on precipitation cycles. During a wet cycle, openings shrink as trees invade. During droughts, glades get larger as trees unable to survive on the drier soil die.

The Ozarks are home to dogwood, blackgum, serviceberry, walnut, white ash, sassafras, scarlet oak, mulberry and sugar and red maple-just to name a few. These are familiar trees, but the Ozarks also contain some unusual trees that are more common in other states.

In southwest Missouri, several tree species reach into the state from Texas and Oklahoma. Smoketree, Ashe juniper, fringe tree and yellowwood are found only in the White River drainage. Western soapberry and Ozark chinkapin are native only to the southwest corner of the state. Osage-orange, now found in

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