The Unique Chert Glade
There are different types of glades each typified by the underlying rock on which they have formed; granite glades, limestone, shale, sandstone, dolomite and chert glades can all be found in Missouri, however chert glades are by far the most unique. Usually found on south and west facing open, rocky hillsides, glades are very dry places with thin soils and are Missouri's own deserts. In Wildcat Park, from years of landform erosion, the chert bedrock has been exposed and is close to the surface.
Plants You Will Find
Some of the plants found in this harsh world are so specialized that they live nowhere else except glades. Examples of these are Ashe's juniper, smoke tree, Fremont's leather flower, purple beard-tongue and certain lichens and mosses. Some of the post oaks on the chert glades are dated over 150 years old and yet are only 20 feet tall.
Glade surfaces are very hard, so the rocks weather, break down and build soil very slowly. Chert rock is some of the hardest known and as it breaks sharply, Native Americans valued it for making stone tools and points. Chert is also known as flint.
Glades change drastically with the seasons. The plants are primarily native grasses and wildflowers, with some sporadic shrubs and trees. Spring is a time of much activity as wildflowers sweep the landscape and animals like narrow mouth toads, tree frogs and box turtles are active in the early spring rains. Like desert areas, summer on the glade brings extreme heat and drought. The plants growing here have special adaptations that help them survive the dry times, while animals like scorpions, snakes, lizards and tarantulas have closely adapted to these desert-like conditions. Due to glades’ openness, winter brings freezing temperatures and strong winds.
Glade plants survive the dry conditions in summer and autumn much the same way desert plants do. Plants have adapted to the glade conditions with long slender taproots that grow into the cracks of the rock, fleshy stems and leaves, and an ability to drop leaves to reduce water loss. Other plants simply grow only during the winter and spring when water is abundant.
On most glades you're likely to see Indian paintbrush, larkspur, shooting star, yellow coneflower, prickly pear cactus and bird's foot violet in spring and prairie dock, Missouri evening primrose and purple prairie clover in summer. On the chert glades you will see coreopsis, aromatic aster, fame flower, ladies tresses and hyacinth as well.
Prairie grasses are abundant on the glades: Indian grass, and big and little bluestem. Lichens dot the rocks, slowly chipping away at the hard surface. A few tree species such as oaks, cedars, gum bumelia and winged elm also make up part of the plant life on glades.
Do Animals Live on the Glades?
Most of the animals you see on glades are only visitors. Bobcats, fox, white-tailed deer, rabbits, wild turkeys, eastern chipmunks and other wildlife live in the wooded areas and travel across the glade to find food. You're likely to see turkey vultures and red-shouldered hawks flying overhead. Carolina chickadees, red-eyed vireos, cedar waxwings, bobwhite quail and indigo buntings can also be heard singing across the glade. Roadrunners and collared lizards were once more common on glades, but are increasingly uncommon due to habitat loss.
Although harsh in appearance, glades are fragile places that are easily disturbed by misuse and lack of proper management. Invasive plant species like winter creeper, Japanese honeysuckle and euonymus crowd out native plants and reduce quality habitat for wildlife. Regular prescribed burning and hand removal helps keep these exotic species under control. Because of thin soils and short growing seasons, delicate lichen mats may take decades to recover from heavy foot traffic and damage.
Use care when visiting glade habitat and please stay on designated paths. Please do not collect the plants and animals found here. Observe them, but please leave them for others to enjoy.