Diamond Grove Prairie
Points of Interest:
• Experience a premier prairie remnant of the Springfield Plateau.
• See a great density of the unusual prairie “mima mounds.”
• Keep your eyes out for the colorful royal catchfly, Barbara’s buttons, and fringed poppy mallow – wildflowers characteristic of cherty southwest Missouri prairies.
Natural History: This tallgrass prairie is a remnant of the large prairie that historically occurred around Diamond, Missouri. Diamond Grove Prairie exemplifies the prairies of the Springfield Plateau region of the Ozarks. Tallgrass prairies are very productive natural communities and so most of them were converted to agriculture in Missouri and throughout the midwest. Tallgrass prairies developed in Missouri under the dual influences of wildfires lit primarily by Native Americans and native grazers, elk and bison. Native Americans utilized fires for a variety of reasons, including hunting, horticulture, warfare, travel access, and to improve pasturage for bison and elk. Although most of Missouri’s prairies were converted to row crops a few survived and were maintained as hay meadows such as Diamond Grove Prairie. Today conservation agencies and organizations use prescribed fire, grazing, and haying to restore and maintain prairies.
This prairie developed on level to gently rolling terrain with cherty silt loam soils derived from cherty limestone bedrock of the Ozark plateau. The prairie contains abundant prairie dropseed as well as little bluestem and Indian grass. In between the native grasses are found a number of showy prairie wildflower species including shooting star, lead plant, pale purple coneflower, large-flowered coreopsis, prairie blazing star, purple prairie clover, compass plant, rigid goldenrod, and downy gentian.
As you look across the prairie, especially after the area has been burned or hayed, you will notice all sorts of small mounds dotting the prairie landscape. These are called “mima mounds” and they range from two to six feet tall and around 10 to 30 yards in diameter. Their name originates from Mima Prairie near Olympia, Washington. For 100 years scientists have debated over the origin of these curious mounds. The leading theory is that a now extinct species of gopher could have created these mounds.
Just 2 miles south of here is the birthplace of George Washington Carver, famous African American scientist and educator. Carver was born around 1864 into slavery and his early boyhood years were spent around Diamond Grove, Missouri, where he developed an interest in botany and agriculture. Carver would have seen prairies like the one conserved here during his childhood. Visitors to Diamond Grove Prairie may also consider visiting the nearby George Washington Carver National Monument (417-325-4151).
This prairie supports the typical array of upland prairie birds including the dickcissel, grasshopper sparrow, field sparrow, eastern meadowlark, Bell’s vireo, Henslow’s sparrow, northern bobwhite, and scissor-tailed flycatcher. Other prairie denizens include the northern crawfish frog, prairie mole cricket, and regal fritillary butterfly (all species of conservation concern). Northern harriers can be seen in the winter.
From Diamond, go 4 miles west on Highway V, then turn right (north) onto gravel Lark Road. Follow Lark Road north 1.25 mile to the parking lot on the right (east) side. A map and compass is recommended to explore the area. Hunting is permitted.