Plains pocket mice can go months without sipping a single swallow of H2O. The gerbil-sized fur balls get most of their water from the seeds they eat. Although Star School Hill Prairie is the best place in Missouri to find a pocket mouse, you’re unlikely to spot one. Pocket mice snooze away the day deep in their burrows and come out at night to feed.
Cool critters and groovy grasses aren't the only things that love loess prairies. So do ticks. Wear long pants and spray on repellent to keep the bloodsuckers at bay.
Loess soils drain quickly, and the treeless hilltops get tons of sun. Because it’s so dry and hot, many plants that are more common farther west thrive here. How many of these visitors from the Great Plains can you find?
Locoweed contains selenium, a substance that makes cows go loco — act crazy — if they eat too much of the plant.
Long ago, glaciers ground up rocks into a powdery soil called loess (lus). When the glaciers melted, violent storms blew the loess into Missouri. Over time, the soil piled up to make steep hills. In some places, the loess may be over 100 feet deep.
The best examples of loess hill prairies are found in Atchison and Holt counties, which are located in the extreme northwest corner of Missouri.
On a clear day atop Star School Hill Prairie, you can see into four states: Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.
If you see something buzzing above a flower, it may not be a bee. White-lined sphinx moths hover over flowers to sip nectar with their tubelike tongues. Unlike their moon-loving cousins, these moths are out during the day.
With plenty of yummy seeds and bugs, prairies attract birds the same way pizza buffets attract little league teams. Keep your eyes peeled, and you might see one of these grassland-loving birds swoop in for a snack.
Angie Daly Morfeld
Nichole LeClair Terrill