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U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Region Viewing Area


Western Star Flatwoods map. Western Star Flatwoods map.

Western Star Flatwoods sign. Western Star Flatwoods is developed and maintained in cooperation with the National Wild Turkey Federation. Photo by Doyle Henken.

Vernal pool. Vernal pools provide habitat for unique plants, and breeding habitat for animals such as salamanders and frogs. Photo by Paul Nelson.

Purple milkweed and Ohio spiderwort. Purple milkweed and Ohio spiderwort are common wildflowers associated with vernal pools. Photo by Paul Nelson.

Western Star Flatwoods

Forest: Mark Twain National Forest

District: Houston-Rolla Ranger District

Description: Western Star Flatwoods is a 180-acre upland oak savannah that occurs on a flat, upland ridge between the incised drainages of the Gasconade and Current rivers. An assemblage of oak trees, principally post oak (Quercus stellata) and white oak (Quercus alba) dominates the site. It also has a diverse understory consisting of both obligate wetland plants, and prairie forbs and grasses that require drier soils. Western Star Flatwoods is developed and maintained in cooperation with the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Viewing Information: Western Star Flatwoods is an upland flatwoods dominated by open-grown post oaks, white oak, black oak (Quercus velutina), blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica), and black hickory (Carya texana). It has a diverse understory consisting of prairie forbs and grasses interspersed with wetland plants associated with vernal pools. These flatwoods occur on broad, flat ridgetops shallowly underlain by an impermeable fragipan that prevents the downward movement of water, limits the rooting depth of plants, and inhibits burrowing by animals (Nelson 2005). Flatwoods are uncommon in the Missouri Ozarks due to the age of the weathered, eroded landscape that is principally a series of high-eroded river drainages and steep topography. They occur on the remnants of the eroded landscape on the ridge divides of the major watersheds, such as that which lies between the Gasconade and Current River watersheds where Western Star Flatwoods is located.

Where the ridges are extremely broad, with large, flat expanses underlain by claypan soils, microtopographic variation results in scattered areas which pond shallow water during wet periods and often for much of the growing season. One result of the fragipan is the formation of vernal pools that are common in the spring and after heavy rains. However, in the absence of rain this fragipan also creates xeric conditions during most of the growing season, resulting in an unusual mix of vegetation that is both hydric and xeric in nature. The shallow swales, or vernal pools, are inhabited by a sparse vascular flora consisting of plants such as upland bentgrass (Agrostis perennans), terrestrial starwort (Callitriche terrestris), blue sedge (Carex glaucodea) and slender spike rush (Eleocharis tenuis var. verrucosa). On slightly more elevated and well-drained sites the vegetation consists of species such as little bluestem (Andropogon scoparius), pussy’s toes (Antennaria plantaginifolia), St. Andrew’s cross (Ascyrum hyperioides var. multicaule), spreading aster (Aster patens), American Ipecac (Gillenia stipulata), violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea), downy goldenrod (Solidago petiolaris), and three-leaved violet (Viola tricolor) (Ladd and Heumann 1994).

Directions: Western Star Flatwoods is located on Missouri Highway P about 2 miles east of Exit 169 (Highway J) on Interstate 44 in Phelps County, Missouri. Forest Road 1571 defines the eastern boundary of the site, Missouri Highway P defines the northern boundary, and Phelps County Road 7650 is the western boundary of the site.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Mark Twain National Forest, Houston-Rolla Ranger District, Houston, Missouri. (417) 967-4194.

Closest Town: Newburg, Missouri.

Literature Cited:

Ladd, D. and B. Heumann. 1994. Baseline Ecological Assessment of Selected Oak Woodlands on the Houston-Rolla District, Mark Twain National Forest. Internal Report completed under USFS Challenge Cost Share Agreement 05-09-119, June 1994. 183 pp.

Nelson, P. 2005. The Terrestrial Natural Communities of Missouri. Produced by the Missouri Natural Areas Committee. 550 pp.