Dry, rocky glades are home to sun-loving plants and animals found nowhere else in Missouri. So lace up your boots, shoulder your pack, and head into the wild.
The yellow-and orange flowers of prickly pear cactuses are beautiful to behold. When the flowers fade, eggshaped red fruits appear. The fruits, or pears, are edible — if you can get past the prickles.
Prairie dock’s toothed, heartshaped leaves are as big as elephant ears, growing nearly a foot wide and 2 feet long. Rub one of the leaves between your fingers, and you’ll find it feels as rough as sandpaper.
Lichen grasshoppers are nearly invisible on rocks. But when they take flight, their orange wings give them away. Watch where one lands — it won’t fly far — and approach slowly for a better look.
Glades are scattered throughout the Ozarks. Just look for rocky, treeless sites on the south or west side of hills. Or, visit these public areas, which are known for their spectacular glades.
Glade plants and animals are adapted to hot, sunny conditions. Humans? Not so much. So slather on sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring plenty of water.
Only cartoon roadrunners go “beep, beep.” Real roadrunners make a soft cooing call that sounds like a dove. The leggy birds run better than they fly, hoofing it across southern Missouri’s glades at nearly 20 miles per hour. They use their speed to run down prey, such as lizards, snakes, and scorpions.
If you want to see Missouri’s hairiest — and some may say, scariest — spider, visit a glade after dark. Shine a flashlight on the rocky ground. If you’re lucky, you might spy a tarantula’s eyes shining back at you.
Collared lizards are Missouri’s fastest reptiles, reaching speeds of 15 miles per hour when chasing down prey such as grasshoppers or dashing away from predators such as roadrunners. When a lizard needs to scurry in a hurry, it stands upright to run on its hind legs, using its long tail for balance.
Angie Daly Morfeld
Nichole LeClair Terrill