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Family Afield

Purple Coneflowers

Published on: May. 29, 2012

In many ways I consider myself a carbon copy of my mother 30 years later. Mostly we share genetic similarities: same nose, same height, and same love of literature and all things caffeinated, to name a few. But I discovered a new parallel between my life and my mother’s on a recent afternoon hike at Missouri’s Danville Conservation Area (CA).

One of my favorite stories from my mom’s childhood features her exploring my great-grandfather’s farm in Maries County. While this was certainly no rare occurrence for my mom, on this particular day she decided to investigate a side of the farm she usually left alone, the field her grandfather used especially for quail hunting.

When she arrived at her destination, she was greeted by an endless field filled with wild daisies in bloom. The unexpected sight left her with only one appropriate word: “Wow.”

Little did I know that my hike through the woods of Danville CA would be a Montgomery County walk in my mother’s shoes (literally—they were hand-me-downs straight from her closet), only in a different hue.

I took the loop around 3-mile Danville Glades Trail, located in the 313-acre eastern portion of Danville Glades Natural Area. The trail winds through gorgeous forests featuring some trees more than 200 years old, with a slight break of open field.

As I made my way across the first portion of the trail, I admired the awe-inspiring trees but wondered where all of the area’s supposed wildflowers were hiding.

Then I walked over the next ridge.

Wow.

I’ve seen purple coneflowers before, but never in such overwhelming proportions. These pale-purple native wildflowers overtook the trailside landscape for nearly my entire hike. Purple coneflowers are one of my favorites. They were a welcome surprise that reminded me of my mom’s childhood experience.

Danville CA boasts other native wildflowers as well. I marveled in particular at deep purple spiderwort and bright yellow coreopsis, but by no means are the area’s wildflowers limited to these. More than 300 wildflower species have been documented at the designated natural area alone.

I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed Danville CA’s wildflowers that day. A few times while I attempted to photograph wildflowers, I had to duck to avoid being dive-bombed by hungry butterflies. Swarms of black spicebush swallowtails and orange-and-silver great spangled fritillaries decorated wildflower displays with their own festive colors.

On a lucky whim, I spotted a whitetail doe leaping gracefully across an open field, likely with a fawn concealed somewhere in the tall grass. Danville CA’s quiet, secluded location makes it a great place to spy wildlife that might otherwise stay hidden due to too much human foot traffic. I gathered that this level of privacy was something a certain three-toed box turtle had come to rely on, based on his surprisingly impressive sprint from trail to grass upon my arrival.

Danville CA is a perfect day-trip hiking destination. Plenty of shade from trees and trailside clearings in the woods would make great spots for family picnics—but don’t forget the bug spray! The area provides primitive camping and public restrooms at two parking lots.

The area is easy to find, too, just a few miles down Route RB off I-70. A map and brochure are available on the MDC website at mdc.mo.gov/a6507.

Although I took my hike solo, the day brought to mind outdoor adventures with my own family, including memories of chasing butterflies with my dad and hearing stories of my mom’s daisy-sprinkled treks across the farm. Danville CA and hundreds of conservation areas like it not only help take care of Missouri’s forests, fish and wildlife, but also provide perfect places for families to discover nature together.

MDC works with Missourians to sustain healthy forests, fish and wildlife at more than 1,000 conservation areas, including nature centers, fish hatcheries, natural areas and shooting ranges. Consider taking a “staycation” to one this summer to pursue your favorite outdoor activities and discover nature close to home or across the state.

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Comments

On May 29th, 2012 at 5:19pm Dayla said:

What beautiful writing. I can "see" the CA with such gorgeous descriptions! Job well done. I'm now inspired to visit!
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