Into The Wild

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From Xplor: November/December 2017

There’s no better time than the holidays to explore a forest of wild Christmas trees. So put on your coat, head to the Ozarks, and find Missouri’s only native pine, the shortleaf pine.


If you crush the mitten shaped leaves of a sassafras tree, they smell like root beer.


Red-headed woodpeckers store acorns and other seeds in the nooks and crannies of trees so they have plenty to eat during winter. Watch closely and you might see a feisty woodpecker chasing a blue jay away from its food.


Carolina chickadees don’t stay in one place for long. The easiest way to find these busy little birds is to listen for their calls. Although they make more than 40 different sounds, the most common are fee-bee-bye-bye and chicka-dee-dee-dee.

Where to Go

Shortleaf pines in the Ozarks were once as thick as the hairs on a black bear’s back. But most pines were cut down in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Luckily, a few pine woodlands remain.

  • Sunklands Conservation Area
  • Peter A. Eck Conservation Area
  • Pickle Springs Natural Area
  • Big Spring Pines Natural Area
  • Hawn State Park
  • Montauk State Park
  • Pioneer Forest (L-A-D Foundation)

Take a Closer Look

If you’re walking through a pine forest, don’t forget to look up. There’s a chance an owl is snoozing somewhere up above. The dense evergreen branches shelter the sleepy birds from wind and snow.

Did You Know?

Some shortleaf pines in Missouri are more than 200 years old. What Happened Here? Black bears claw and bite trees to mark their territory and let other bears know they’ve been there.


Crossbills use their snaggletoothed beaks to pry open pine cones so they can eat the seeds inside. The birds aren’t common in Missouri, but they show up — usually in winter — when food runs out in their northern forests.

What Happened Here?

Cooper’s hawks streak through the trees to attack songbirds. This pile of feathers is probably all that remains from a Cooper’s breakfast.

Also In This Issue

Quail Hunting
Bagging a bobwhite takes a smart dog, a patient grandpa, and lots of walking.

This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White