Missouri's Savannas and Woodlands

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

stars, coneflowers, goldenrods, sunflowers and milkweeds. Native legumes, a valuable food source for our wildlife, abound in savannas and woodlands.

Visitors to one of the Conservation Department's restored savannas or woodlands will witness an astonishing amount of natural diversity. A hundred acres of high-quality woodland can support over 200 native plant species. Flying in the open spaces of a savanna you may see eastern kingbirds, eastern bluebirds, red-tailed hawks or field sparrows. Gracing the air between the oaks of a woodland you might spot a great crested flycatcher, red-headed woodpecker, summer tanager, indigo bunting or blue-gray gnatcatcher.

Over 40 species of breeding birds use savannas and woodlands for their habitat needs. Many of today's successful birds of our towns, parks, backyards and pastures were originally savanna and woodland species. The American robin and northern cardinal have quickly adapted to the artificial savannas and woodlands we have created. Some birds have not fared as well. Historically, the Bachman's sparrow used mature pine Ozark woodlands. Because of habitat loss, this state-endangered species now is confined to glades at only a few locations in the Ozarks.

More than 20 species of mammals, from fox squirrels to coyotes, use savannas and woodlands. Along with these furry animals, 16 species of reptiles and amphibians crawl, hop or slither through the habitat. Lucky visitors to a woodland might spot an ornate box turtle, a prairie ring-necked snake or a six-lined racerunner lizard. The rare eastern collared lizard that lives on some Ozark glades may use woodlands as travel corridors to get from glade to glade.

Scientists are just beginning to learn the importance of savanna and woodland habitats for insects. Among the many butterflies and moths of savannas and woodlands, the brightly colored and attractive Missouri woodland swallowtail eats the woodland plants yellow pimpernel and golden Alexanders as a caterpillar. As an adult butterfly, it feeds on the nectar of hoary puccoon and wood betony. Hoary edge and mottled dusky wing butterflies also depend on woodland plants, such as New Jersey tea and goat's rue.

Certain species of katydids and grasshoppers have narrow habitat requirements and live primarily in woodlands and glades. Native bees and butterflies of savannas and woodlands are essential to plant pollination. Abundant insects in our savannas and woodlands help feed hungry bobwhite quail and wild turkey poults.

Biologists find remnant savannas and woodlands on dry, rocky, nutrient-poor soils of south and west slopes. These areas were typically spared

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