Spring Bend: Yesterday and Today

Posted by & filed under Native plants, Newsletter.

By Scott Woodbury

Of all the wildflower forays I go on each year, I look forward to Spring Bend the most. Perhaps it’s spring in the air, but more likely, it’s the remarkable array of spring ephemerals that carpet the Missouri River banks and hallows that cut down from the softly rolling hills. It used to be that those hilltops were some of the richest farmland in Missouri, and before that, they were likely covered in prairie. Now most of it is housing.

Only the moist hallows and floodplains could support lush tree growth, and that is where Spring Bend’s rich diversity of native plants have been thriving ever since Lewis and Clark drew water from the spring below the old log house. (This part of the river used to be called Spring House Bend, hence the current name, Spring Bend.). Now there is a six-lane bridge going in overhead: The Page Avenue extension.

This year we saw more than a few blooming white trillium (Trillium flexipes). The deer must have been busy elsewhere. We also saw huge masses of blooming wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), wild sweet William (Phlox divaricata), green trillium (Trillium viride), purple wake robin (Trillium recurvatum), crested iris (Iris cristata), false rue anemone (Isopyrum biternatum), dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra_cucullaria), common violet (Viola sororia), yellow violet (V. pubescens), dwarf larkspur (Delphinium tricorne), shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia) – which smelled like concord grapes!, yellow pimpernel (Taenidia integerrima), red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), Blue-eyed-Mary (Collinsia verna), and so many more.

The old gravel lane coming into the farmstead used to curve through the woods beneath tangles of grapevines and shagbark hickories. Before reaching the old farmhouse, it would bend within view of soybean and hay fields. Now it is a straight shot to the house following all six lanes of what will become Page Avenue, the row of white pines and spruce that will someday screen the view, and the high tension cables of a new Ameren UE power line.

I’m writing this down to preserve my rather brief impression of Spring Bend. Bill and Nancy Knowles have been coming here most of their lives. Nancy’s father built a dog-trot log house in the 30’s on top of the hill overlooking the river. Over the years they have gathered their own impressions and stories, having raised their children there. For decades, invited friends have been coming to see the spring wildflower displays. Wild Ones has been fortunate to be a part of that. Our appreciation goes out to Bill and Nancy, who have been dedicated stewards of the land, both striving to protect the natural diversity and cultural history in an era of fast-track development and short-term gain.

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