Get Outside in December
Ways to Connect With Nature
Don’t let the cold temperatures keep you indoors. Head out and see what nature has to offer:
If there is snow on the ground, look for animal tracks. For tips that will help you on your trek, visit short.mdc. mo.gov/ZJm. As you are tracking, if you come upon what looks like blood, chances are you’ve come upon an eastern cottontail trail. Their urine can be orange or reddish due to their diet this time of year and can be mistaken for blood.
Without their leaves, trees are more challenging to identify. You must examine twigs, buds, bark, nuts, and other clues. Learning this skill is fun, and it’s an excuse to get outdoors. For help with your ID, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/Zuv.
A Gift to Nature
Once the holidays are over, there is still one gift you can give — to nature. If you decorated your home with a real tree, return that tree back to nature. You can put it in your backyard and it can become a nesting spot for birds or cover for rabbits and other animals. You can also put it in a nearby body of water where it can be enjoyed by aquatic life. It is the gift that keeps on giving all year long.
Winter is Aflutter
Mourning cloak butterflies overwinter as adults and may be seen flying on warm winter days. They need a body temperature of about 65 F to be able to fly. Most butterflies bask in sunlight to raise their body temperature, but mourning cloaks can truly shiver, rapidly contracting muscles with only minimal wing movement. This can raise their temperature 15–20 degrees in just a few minutes.
Anglers know Missouri is a great place to fish all year around. There is never a time to give your fishing pole and tackle a rest. There are plenty of species ready to be hooked in winter, including bass, crappie, trout, walleye, and catfish.
Flowers in Winter
In December, some wildflowers leave behind clues of their summer glory. Here are a couple of examples:
- Look for Adam and Eve orchid, also called putty root. It appears as a green-and-white-striped, pleated leaf lying flat upon the dead leaves on the forest floor. Check back in May to see this native orchid’s flowers.
- Dittany is a shrublike perennial with tufts of lavender to purple flowers that bloom through November. During the first hard freeze of the season, ribbons of frozen sap, called frost flowers, will form at the base of this plant.
Get Nature Your Way
Get your FREE Missouri Conservationist at mdc.mo.gov/conservationist
Wolfner Library is a free library service for Missourians who are unable to use standard print materials due to a visual or physical disability. Materials are mailed to and from library patrons at their homes, postage paid. There is no charge, whatsoever, to the patron. Visit sos.mo.gov/wolfnerto learn more.
Natural Events to See This Month
Here’s what’s going on in the natural world.
- Missouri’s rainbow trout spawn in Ozark streams
- December is the onset of gray squirrel mating season
- Snowy owls occasionally visit Missouri in winter
This Issue's Staff
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Art Director - Cliff White
Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation - Laura Scheuler