Common Name: Ozark chinquapin
Scientific Name: Castanea pumila, variety ozarkensis
Range: Southern Missouri
To learn more about endangered species: see links listed below.
The Ozark chinquapin is a small- to medium-sized tree with edible nuts that look like spiny sea urchins when still in their hulls. It does best in acid soils on dry upper slopes and ridges. Its name comes from the Algonquin Indian word for chestnut. Like the American chestnut, the Ozark chinquapin fell prey to a fungal disease brought to the United States from Asia in 1904. When the blight reached the Ozarks in the 1960s it virtually wiped out chinquapins. A few survive in extreme south-central and southwest Missouri. They cling precariously to life by sprouting from the roots of trees that formerly stood as much as 60 feet tall. The sprouts eventually become infected with the fungus and die. The Northern Nut Growers Association has put up money to establish orchards aimed at cultivating Ozark chinquapin, and several other groups have launched the Ozark Chinquapin Initiative. For more information, see the links listed below or contact Louise A. “Skip” Mourglia at (417) 732-6485, firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do wild animals cope with winter? Dozens of raccoons pile into den trees to pool warmth. Some salamanders’ blood has natural antifreeze that allows them to survive sub-zero temperatures. Ruffed grouse burrow into snow banks at night to escape the cold. The hollow shafts of deer’s outer guard hairs insulate them and conduct warming sunlight directly to their skin. Their dense underfur retains heat so well that snow accumulates on their backs without melting.
Hawks are vagabonds in winter, traveling north and south in response to changes in weather and food supplies. Extreme cold or heavy snow in more northerly states can send waves of raptors rippling up and down North America like soaring tides, pushing large numbers of hawks into Missouri. So can cyclic declines in rabbit or squirrel numbers to our north. At times, it seems that every other tree along Missouri highways holds a bird of prey. Red-tailed hawks are most commonly seen, but rough-legged hawks often appear in northern and western Missouri. Fairly large numbers of northern goshawks turn up in forested parts of the Show-Me State in years when Canadian snowshoe hare populations crash.
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