When the first explorers entered the Missouri Ozarks, they encountered a landscape that in many respects would be nearly unrecognizable today. Explorers such as Henry Rowe Schoolcraft described the landscape as thus, ” a character of unvaried sterility, consisting of a succession of limestone ridges, skirted with a feeble growth of oaks, with no depth of soil, often bare rocks upon the surface, and covered with coarse wild grass, and sometimes we crossed patches of ground of considerable extent, without trees or brush of any kind”. What Schoolcraft was describing was typical of much of todays Taney county and other parts of the southwest and southeast Ozarks.
These open rocky areas, characterized by thin, drought prone soils, harbor plant and animal communities more a kin to the Desert Southwest and western prairies , than to the Midwest.These areas are what we call glades. Six different types of glades occur in Missouri, limestone,dolomite, and chert in the Southwestern Ozarks, sandstone and shale in the northern Ozarks, and to the east, igneous rocks of volcanic origin.
Creatures such as the Striped Scorpion, Texas Brown Tarantula, Western Pygmy Rattlesnake and Greater Roadrunner make their homes in this semi-arid environment. Prickly Pear Cactus and other drought tolerant plants feel right at home here.
There a number of these interesting places that are waiting to be explored, one high quality glade lies in the city limits of Branson Missouri. the Henning Conservation Area. The Henning Conservation Area protects the last remaing sizeable glade left in the Branson vicinity. Those familiar with Harold Bell Wrights story ” The Shepard Of The Hills ” will find that some of the scenes depicted in the book occured in Henning C. A. This glade contains the rare Smoke Tree and Ashe Juniper which is more commonly associated with the Hill Country of Texas.
In the springtime the glades are covered with the lovely yellow blooms of the Missouri Primrose and the reddish orange blooms of Indian Paintbrush. Summer time brings the delicate purple flowers of the Smoke Tree . Late Summer and early Fall brings forth members of the Sunflower And Daisy families as vibrant yellows rule. All this beauty lies just a short distance from Silver Dollar City on the 76 Strip.
Interpretive signs will tell you the pertinent information about the area and guide you to scenic trails that wind through the glade. This is a must see destination for the Branson visitor who enjoys the great outdoors. In the next installment i will highlight another glade. Stay tuned.