Points of Interest:
• Take a walk through a rare remnant of old-growth Missouri River hills forest.
• Marvel at outstanding spring wildflower and fall color displays.
• Enjoy seeing migrating spring warblers and year-round populations of a variety of woodpeckers.
Natural History: Mature and old-growth dry-mesic and mesic upland forests dominated by northern red and white oaks, white ash, shagbark, mockernut, and bitternut hickories; and sugar maple. Some of the larger trees are three feet in diameter and 100 feet tall. Trees nearly 200 years old are scattered through the area. These rugged Missouri River hills provide good growing conditions for trees, ferns, and many spring wildflowers. On north and east slopes deep soils derived from loess and or weathered dolomite support a lush understory of elm, ironwood, bladdernut, spicebush, pawpaw, and wild grape vines. These rich forests support a dozen fern species and showy but ephemeral spring wildflowers include bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, bellwort, Solomon’s seal, and celandine poppy. Visitors to the area may note however that there are few young oaks in the forest understory. This is the result of a slow change towards a forest dominated by sugar maple and other shade-tolerant species. In the absence of periodic surface fires that historically occurred here, sugar maples have slowly “invaded” the understory of this forest. Management actions, including prescribed fire, may be used here by the Conservation Department to reduce the prevalence of sugar maple and invasive, non-native species such as wintercreeper.
Being along the Missouri River corridor these woods are a good place to see migrating warblers in the spring. With so many large snags and cavity trees the forest supports good populations of pileated woodpeckers. The forest supports populations of salamanders such as the southern red-backed salamander and many small mammals like eastern chipmunks. Spring wildflowers and fall colors create spectacular seasonal displays.
The Conservation Department acquired this area from the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1982. The Garden had acquired the property from former owner Irene W. Johnson in 1945. The natural area is named to honor George Engelmann, the German-born physician and botanist who devoted much of his time and energy to collecting and cataloguing plants throughout North America during the 1830s. Engelmann was a key advisor to St. Louis businessman Henry Shaw who established the Missouri Botanical Garden – today a world center for plant study.
From the intersection of Highway MM and Highway T in Labadie travel about 5 miles east on Highway T. A 1.5 mile hiking trail leads visitors through the natural area. Hunting is not permitted.