This showy orchid sometimes grows more than 2 feet tall. It inhabits areas where constant seepage of groundwater creates wet meadows known as fens. Such spots are scattered throughout much of the eastern Ozarks, particularly around the margins of the St. Francis Mountains. Grass pinks are known to live in Shannon and St. Francois counties, and historic records show them in Reynolds County as well. However, undiscovered colonies could exist in isolated pockets of suitable habitat in other parts of the Ozarks. Like other native orchids, grass pinks are sensitive to disturbance and almost never survive transplanting. This is partly because of their very specific soil and water requirements and because they rely on a mutually beneficial relationship with fungi that live in the soil around their roots. If you find one, photograph it and send the pictures to Missouri Department of Conservation, Resource Science Division, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.
Missouri’s 19 interstate highway rest areas recently got a birdy boost from a civic-minded St. Louis-area business. S&K Manufacturing of O’Fallon donated 64 bluebird nest boxes and 32 purple martin houses to make rest stops more attractive to birds and to the 24 million people who visit rest areas annually. Purple martins, which arrive in Missouri in April and stay until early fall, are known for their voracious appetites for flying insects. The bluebird — Missouri’s state bird — is simply beautiful.
The eastern narrow-mouthed toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis) spends most of its life in the soil beneath rocks or logs that are near, but not in, water. It inhabits most of southern Missouri. In the Ozarks, individuals sometimes are found beneath rocks on glades and other dry, rocky areas. Adaptations for an underground lifestyle include a wedge-shaped head that is perfect for crawling into crayfish holes and tight places. Since they do not have to swim, eastern narrow-mouthed toads have lost the webbing that most frogs and toads have between their toes, along with the external “tympanum” or eardrum. Ants, termites and small beetles make up the bulk of their diet. The male’s mating call is a nasal bleating, like the cry of a lamb.
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