If you get the chance to visit one of Missouri’s rarest habitats, here’s what to look for.
The red “caps” atop British soldier lichens look like the hats worn by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. In fact, the caps actually release spores that make new lichens.
Prickly pears unfurl their stunning yellow-and orange flowers beginning in mid-June. When the flowers fade, egg-shaped red fruits appear. The fruits, or pears, are edible — if you can get past the thorns.
These lines, which look like the intricate patterns raked into the sand of a Zen garden, are actually made by grasses and other plants when they are whipped around by the wind.
Keep your eyes peeled for northern harriers swooping low over the grasses. The bird’s saucer-shaped face is lined with stiff feathers that funnel sounds to its ears. This “face funnel” helps harriers hear the slightest squeak, so they can zero in on hidden mice.
Less than 2,000 acres of sand prairies remain in Missouri. The best place to find this rare but fascinating habitat is Sand Prairie Conservation Area. Other places to look are along the Mississippi River, primarily in the Bootheel and the northeast corner of the state.
Is this snake dead? Nope. When a hog-nosed snake feels threatened, it hisses and flattens its head like a cobra. If this bluff fails, the sneaky serpent rolls onto its back, flops out its tongue, and pretends to be dead. Left alone, the fakey snake will slowly turn right-side-up, peek around to make sure it’s clear, and slither away to safety.
Angie Daly Morfeld
Nichole LeClair Terrill