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From Missouri Conservationist: May 2008

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: We have a persimmon tree that blossoms every spring, but the blooms fall off and there have never been any persimmons on this tree. Why not?

A: Plant propagation is an interesting topic. Persimmon trees are dioecious, meaning that it takes a male tree to pollinate the blossoms of a female tree. Apparently, you’re lacking a male tree in the immediate vicinity. (Monoecious species, such as oak, have both male and female parts on the same tree—generally on the same limb.)

The story doesn’t end there when it comes to tree reproduction. Trees will also sucker, or sprout, from root growth. This may be a survival method used to overcome damage or disease. Sprouting is also what occurs shortly after a timber harvest. Often, the reproduction is so thick after the cut you can’t walk through the area.

Wildlife and weather play a role, too. Many seeds need a certain amount of cold temperature in order to sprout the following season. And once you get that persimmon to produce, it may take a fox or opossum to eat the fruit and pass the seeds before they’re viable. Without squirrels stashing their winter food supply, new oaks wouldn’t be nearly as prevalent.

The Trees of Missouri Field Guide covers such topics and is a handy guide for identifying trees. It’s nominally priced at $7.50, plus sales tax, shipping and handling. You can order it online from the MDC Natureshope or by phone, toll-free, at (877) 521-8632. It’s also available at Department Nature Centers and Regional Offices.

Ombudsman Ken Drenon will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Conservation Department programs. Write him at P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at Ken.Drenon@mdc.mo.gov.

Agent Notes

No digging rule protects the ecology and beauty of Missouri roadsides.

From March to November, Missouri roadsides are alive with a colorful array of wildflowers. Their colors, shapes, sizes and arrangements are as diverse as the people of this great state. Roadside wildflowers provide enjoyment for photographers and naturalists, as well as people who are out for a weekend drive through the countryside.

Roadside wildflowers also are ecologically important. Their roots help hold the soil and prevent erosion, while their flowers, stems, seeds and leaves are food for a variety of animals, from insects to birds to rabbits.

To protect this wonderful resource, we have state statutes pertaining to the removal of plants from the right-of-way of any state or county highway or roadway. In general, these statutes make it illegal to “dig or remove any plants or plant parts” from along roadsides. They do allow the collection of seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, edible wild greens or flowering parts of plants for personal use or for the purpose of scientific research or education, but those plants or plant parts may not be offered for sale.

As conservation agents, a large part of our job is protecting resources such as these to help ensure that they will be around for future generations to enjoy.

Jerry Kiger is the conservation agent for Ozark County, which is in the Ozark region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office.

Time Capsule

May 1968

Missouri’s Most Unusual Fish was written by Thomas R. Russell about freshwater eels. Freshwater eels are harmless and are an excellent source of meat. They are delicious smoked, fried or pickled. They are most common in the Mississippi River but can occur in the permanent flow of tributary rivers. The young eels are hatched in the Sargasso Sea and then migrate up freshwater streams. They have two color phases, silver and yellow. The colors do not determine the sex but indicate the sexual maturity of the females. It is proven that all eels caught in Missouri are females. The males stay back in brackish water along the coast. Most eels can be caught by worms, crayfish or minnows in summer and early fall.
—Contributed by the Circulation staff

Behind the Code

Free Fishing Days—a state fixture since 1991.
by Tom Cwynar

Free fishing days were first offered by the Conservation Department in 1991, and a provision for them has been included in the Wildlife Code since 1992. The wording of the regulation has changed only slightly since that time. It now reads:

“Any person may fish without permit, trout permit and prescribed area daily tag during free fishing days. Free fishing days are the Saturday and Sunday following the first Monday in June.”

A February 1991 memo to the then Conservation Department director set the ball rolling. In the memo, the Fisheries Division chief suggested that Missouri join several other states in offering free fishing privileges during the celebration of National Fishing Week, which at that time was in its 11th year. The week is now called National Fishing and Boating Week.

The intent of free fishing days is to let people sample the sport of fishing without having to pay for permits. The weekend dates allow more people to take advantage of the opportunity. It’s hoped that first-time fishers will have so much fun they’ll want to take up the sport of fishing. The days also offer a great opportunity for experienced anglers to introduce their friends or relatives to the sport.

Free Fishing Days fall on June 7–8 this year. Even though anglers may fish without permits on free fishing days, they still must abide by regulations concerning seasons, limits and methods.

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/Editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Ruby
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler