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Plants and Animals

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Species of Concern

Prairie Fringed Orchids

  • Common Name: Eastern and western prairie fringed orchid
  • Scientific Name: Platanthera leucophaea and P. praeclara
  • Range: Scattered locations in eastern and western Missouri
  • Classification: State endangered, federally threatened
  • To learn more: see the link listed below

Missouri was formerly home to two species of prairie fringed orchids. The eastern species was only known from a few eastern Missouri counties, and has not been found here since 1951. Only three populations of the western species are known to exist in Missouri today, all of them in the state’s northwest corner. These sweet-smelling flowers probably never were what you could call common. However, the loss of the prairie and wetland habitats that they need surely has made them rarer still. Prairie conversion for agriculture and invasion by woody plants are the greatest threats to these species. The western species is pollinated by several species of night-flying hawk moths.

Singing for its Supper

Enjoying the gray tree frog's prodigious swallowing ability

Almost every county in Missouri has an abundance of Cope’s or eastern gray tree frogs (Hyla chrysoscelis & versicolor, respectively). The two species look very similar. Both live in hardwood forests and bottomland. Males produce high-pitched trills from mid spring through early summer to attract females. They often perch near patio lights, which attract their insect prey. For natural entertainment, catch a moth and hold its fluttering wings near one of these cheerful singers. Then watch as the greedy amphibian uses both front feet to help swallow the dusty morsel.

Deer Cam Goes to School

Live video links teach kids about the scientific method.

A new reality show is coming to Missouri schools. The host is a white-tailed deer, and the lesson is how scientists solve problems in pursuit of knowledge. To learn what deer eat, biologists decided to put cameras on deer. In April, hundreds of elementary pupils watched a live show in which researchers mounted a video camera on a deer and released the animal. They discussed the process that led to development of the deer-cam. A live link let pupils at six schools ask questions. Participating teachers received dvds with hours of deer-cam footage prior to the event, so pupils could do their own investigations of deer habits. To see for yourself, visit online.

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