Byron Shutz Nature Trail Hike

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Byron Shutz Nature Trail Hike

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Sunday afternoon (April 11, 2010) was a glorious day for our scheduled monthly Byron Shutz Nature Trail guided nature hikes. It ‘s hard to believe that our March hike was cancelled due to 8″ of snow! Participant Linda K. Williams took all the images for this blog.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and Toadshade Trilliums (Trillium sessile) were in full bloom in the oak-hickory woodland at the beginning of the trail.

The Byron Shutz Nature Trail at Powell Gardens traverses 3-1/4 miles through the back country of Powell Gardens. Here participants hike through the native prairie remnants we have been reclaiming from overgrowth by trees and brush with help from the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Wild Plums (Prunus americana) were in bloom in sparkling white and accompanying sweet fragrance.

The wet season made frogs one of the highlights of the hike! Linda Williams had a good eye for locating Gray Treefrogs cryptically hiding in small trees. There are two species of Gray Treefrog at Powell Gardens but you can only tell them apart if they call or do a blood test!

This Blanchard’s Cricket Frog is full grown and less than two inches long! Cricket frogs were everywhere along the trail and we even heard their call which sounds like you tapping two pebbles together.

Spring Peepers are seldom seen but readily heard in early spring — we are at the very western edge of their natural range at Powell Gardens as they are not found in the immediate metro! We also saw Green and Bullfrogs on our hike — a good reminder to wear waterproof footwear if you decide to hike the trail.
We saw this mystery caterpillar at several locations along the trail and Linda finally matched it in a reference guide: its a Haploa Moth caterpillar. Haploa Moths are quite common in about a month and have beautiful black and white wings.

The stunning Tiger Beetle is as beautiful as any in the rain forests! It is a beneficial predatory beetle we are glad to have around. A good reminder to come see Dave Roger’s Big Bugs sculptures at Powell Gardens this summer.

This Harvester is our only carnivorous butterfly as its caterpillars feed on woolly aphids! Another great beneficial insect. Most of the spring butterflies are small and for some reason butterflies are slow to emerge this year and we saw only one Black Swallowtail. Swallowtails came out in full force on Tuesday (April 13) so we were just two days too early. Zebra Swallowtails are readily seen now in the Heartland Harvest Garden as we have their host plant pawpaw in bloom.

This weird growth on the redcedar trees is the Cedar-Apple rust. This rust’s alternate host are apple trees but we don’t let that bother us. We plant rust resistant apple and crabapple cultivars!

The Bisquitroot (Lomatium foeniculaceum) was in bloom along the highest, rocky ridge of the trail. This early blooming prairie wildflower hugs the ground for protection from our often variable spring weather. It is a rare wildflower in Missouri and called biscuitroot because Native Americans did make a sort of biscuit from its roots (which Lewis & Clark tasted and thought was dreadful).

The flowers of the Prairie-Plum (Astragalus crassicarpus) were also in bloom on the native prairie remnants. This wildflower is a very important early nectar source for bees on the prairie. It is NOT a plum but rather a species related to peas — the inflated pods are edible and quite delicious! This wildflower has creamy flowers in most of Missouri but beautiful purple flowers in western-most Missouri. It was another wildflower first described to Europeans by Lewis & Clark (though of course, Native Americans knew the plant well).
Don’t forget Powell Gardens has a wild side! Most of our 970 acres is wooded and brushy with ponds, a creek, old fields and native prairie remnants. This wild side provides habitat for a wonderful diversity of wildlife and flora that benefits the display gardens by providing a good balance of nature reservoir that helps pollinate and keep pests in check.
The trail is long and currently muddy so be prepared before you set out on it. It is a wonderful work out with fresh air and spacious skies. The trail begins north of the Visitor Center and ends opposite the Trolley Stop for the Rock & Waterfall Garden and takes approximately 1-1/2 hour to hike — our nature hike lasted 3 hours but we stopped and looked at all the creatures and flora described above!
All photos by Linda K. Williams on the Powell Gardens’ nature trail hike April 11, 2010