Monday, April 30, 2012

Grindstone Nature Area: Grindstone Creek Glade

Grindstone Nature Area is a city park in Columbia I like to frequent.  In fact, it was one of the first places I visited in Columbia when my wife and I moved here in 2010.  I was immediately excited about the clear, rocky creek quickly accessed from the parking lot.  In southern Georgia all we had were black-water creeks, cypress swamps, and bogs (damn, I miss Georgia).  I knew of the clear mountain streams of northern Georgia and the Appalachians, but I seldom frequented the area due to my aversion to a little placed called Atlanta.

Grindstone Creek - just past the parkinglot of the Old Hwy 63 South entrance

Anyways, I soon found myself visiting Grindstone every chance I could.  It wasn't too long before I found an interesting area on top of a knob overlooking Grindstone Creek (the same portion accessed from the parking lot).  This spot was a little more open, rocky and there were a couple of interesting plants that stuck out amongst the copious amounts of bush honeysuckle.  For one, prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) and clusters of what I've now identified as Lance-leaved Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), which by the way is a new Boone County record.

Clusters of the basal leaves of Lance-leaved Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) are quite abundant on this small glade
Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa)
It wasn't until my second spring in Missouri that I learned about an amazing (and now my favorite) natural community that Missouri has to offer; GLADES!   I came to appreciate this habitat as a field botany tech. in the Ozarks.  I was lucky enough to work in some of the highest quality glade habitat Missouri has to offer.  It wasn't until I finished my time working in the Ozarks and returned to Columbia that I realized just what I had seen on top of that little knob at Grindstone Nature Area. My excitement at what I had recognized was quickly followed by concern; bush honeysuckle was obviously smothering this small patch of unique habitat.

Vew at the top of the small glade, all of the bare branches seen in the photo is bush honeysuckle in the winter.  If these were leaved out, just imagine looking at a solid wall of green.
In the Spring of 2011, I was able to round up some volunteers from my local Master Naturalist chapter along with some city Parks and Rec. folk.  Together we tackled that little glade above Grindstone Creek, eliminating a vast majority of the bush honeysuckle that had been smothering the site.
Stumps of a cut bush honeysuckle, poisoned with herbicide

All of the honeysuckle was transported off of the glade and mulched

View of the glade a few weeks after removing the bush honeysuckle; the large green clumps you see are coreopsis leaves

Results were seen  immediately!  The spring and summer following the "honeysuckle slaughter", as I like to call it, was full of blooming native wildflowers.  Tons of coreopsis bloomed, rose verbena, ironweed, and bee-balm just to name a few.  In addition, the sickly looking prickly pare quickly perked up and a very unique glade-specific plant popped up in a spot that was previously covered by some huge bush honeysuckle; Limestone Adder's Tongue (Ophioglossum englemannii)!  A native, blue Salvia (Salvia azurea) also popped up on this glade; this was also a new Boone County record.

Lance-leaved Coreopsis in bloom

A unique little fern that grows only on glades - Limestone Adder's Tongue

Glandularia canadensis - Rose Verbena smells amazing! 

Typically found in southwest Missouri, Salvia azurea is a new Boone Co. record
 This will be the second Spring following the mini-restoration we attempted.  I have visited the site this year and have seen many of the same native plants mentioned above rebounding nicely, including several non-glade species along the glade margin like wild hyacinth, bellwort, and trillium.   The coreopsis is definitely a force in this area; when it blooms this little glade is quite a site.  I hope the joggers and bicyclers that frequent the park can appreciate the spot as they hurry through.

However, the battle continues.  Bush Honeysuckle has been re-sprouting at the site (despite poisoning) and the seeds of this plant persist for quite a while.  If you find yourself at Grindstone Nature Area, take some time to visit this little glade, enjoy the flowers, and pull up some bush honeysuckle while your at it!