Rattlesnake Major

What’s growing at the Cuba Visitor Center?

There is always a lush green landscape in central Missouri, especially in the summer. The Visitor Center in Cuba Missouri offers a pocket-park with a mix of flora and fauna to attract birds and butterflies. This active garden surrounds the Osage Legacy Trail ™  Monument just outside the Visitor Center.

In the spring the monument mound area is covered in wildflowers. As the seasons change so does the landscape. In the heat of summer, indigenous species appear and the park is alive with birds, blooms, and berries.  The ultimate goal is to provide a seasonal garden that attracts pollinators and provides a beautiful landscape.

We often get asked, “What’s that growing outside?”

To answer that question, here’s what is blooming outside:

American Beauty Bush – (Callicarpa americana) Also known as the American Beautyberry, this plant has long branches with light green leaves, and clusters of little flowers that morph into green and then brilliant purple berries containing three to four seeds each. The berries serve as meals for more than 40 species of songbirds. In fact, animals such as armadillos, foxes, opossum, squirrels, and raccoons like the berries, too. 

ButtonBush – (Cephalanthus occidentalis) The Buttonbush is a handsome ornamental bush suited to wet soil. While the Button Bush is a great food source for pollinating insects and hummingbirds, ducks and other waterfowl consume the seeds. Depending on the location, the ButtonBush can be a large shrub or small tree. This native plant can reach up to 40 ft high in certain locations like California. Elsewhere in colder areas of the country, this woody species generally range from three to eight feet or so with about a three to six feet spread.

Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) Once believed to have healing powers against snake bites, this planet is tipped with clusters of round heads with greenish-white cone-shaped flowers. This Missouri native plant thrives in rocky woods, prairies, and glades throughout the state. The flowers are faintly fragrant with a honey-like scent and attract a variety of pollinators including bees, wasps, and butterflies. It is a striking plant specimen that rises above shorter plants and grows in soil or a gravel garden.

Bald Cypress (​​BaldcypressTaxodium distichum) Unlike conifers, the bald cypress trees are deciduous conifers and shed their needle-like leaves in the fall. In fact, the name bald cypress is because they drop their leaves early in the season. The fall colors are tan, cinnamon, and fiery orange. In southern states, the branches are often draped with clumps of Spanish moss. However, the feature Bald Cypress is known for is their “knees.” The technical term for the knees is pneumatophore, which means air-bearing. These roots grow horizontally just below the surface and protrude upward from the groundwater. A Bald Cypress tree can grow up to 120 ft. with a tree trunk three to six feet in diameter. 

Liatris – (Liatruis spicata) This herbaceous perennial plant grows in moist prairies and sedge meadows. The plants have tall spikes of purple flowers and leaves that resemble feathers. Often referred to as the prairie blazing star, the Missouri native perennial occurs in prairies, open woods, meadows, and along railroad tracks. Flowers open top to bottom on the spikes.  They grow to be 1-5 ft. tall.

To learn more about Missouri plants, mushrooms, and animals, visit the MDC Field Guide. Better yet, take a walk on the wild side and check out the Wild Edibles Guide to Missouri and forage the Ozarks for delicious natural treats.

Come see Missouri for yourself! We’ve got birds, bees, and butterflies. Just a short drive from St. Louis, the Cuba Visitor Center is located just off Exit 208 on I-44 where the Osage Legacy Trail monument stands next to the highway. To gain access to the pocket-park, enter through the Visitor Center where you will find maps, brochures, Missouri Conservation information, and much more. Come see what’s growing at the Cuba Visitor Center.

Photo credit – Elaine Byrd

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