Into the Wild

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From Xplor: September/October 2020

Did you know?

The bright colors of autumn leaves are there all year. You just can’t see them. Green-colored chlorophyll (kloroh- fill) covers up other colors most of the time. In the fall, trees quit making chlorophyll.As the green fades, other colors shine through.


Western ratsnakes love to bask high up on branches. Scales on the snake’s tummy have sharp edges that grip bark. The snake climbs by anchoring its front end and pulling up its back end, then anchoring its back end and pushing up its front end.

Take a closer look

Did that stick just move? Stick insects (aka walking sticks) look like brown, gray, or green twigs that sprouted legs. The slender insects munch leaves and often sway back and forth to mimic the motion of branches in a breeze.


The large leafy nests you see in the tops of trees don’t belong to birds. Squirrels build them by piling layers of leaves inside a framework of branches. When the leaf pile is big enough, the squirrel digs out a cozy hole in the middle to sleep in.

Take a closer Look

When an eastern red bat needs a breather from bagging bugs, it hangs upside down from a branch. You’ll have to look carefully to spot this winged mammal. While snoozing, the brick-red bat dangles by one foot, twisting in the breeze like a clump of dead leaves.

Did You Know?

Missouri’s tallest tree is a scarlet oak near Lake Wappapello. The giant tree towers 150 feet above the forest floor. This is about the same height as four utility poles stacked end-to-end.

What happened here?

What Happened Here? Yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill tidy rows of shallow holes into living trees. When sweet sap leaks out, the little woodpeckers return to lick it up.


Lots of vines climb up trees. Poison ivy vines (and any other part of the plant) can make you itch.

  • Poison Ivy Each leaf is made up of three leaflets. The middle leaflet has a longer stalk than the other two. The leaves turn bright red in the fall, earlier than most other plants.
  • Virginia Creeper Like poison ivy, this plant turns red early in the fall, but its leaves are made up of five leaflets, not three.
  • Wild Grapes Eight kinds of wild grapes grow in Missouri. All have lobed or heartshaped leaves without leaflets.

Also In This Issue

Teal Hunting
If icy weather, frozen toes, and snotsicles hanging from your nose make you think twice about winter duck hunting, give September’s teal season a try.

This Issue's Staff

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