Glades are a unique habitat in Missouri. They generally occur on South or West facing slopes with very poor, rocky soil and rock outcroppings. Due to the direction in which they lie they receive a lot of heat from the sun and in some ways they are almost desert-like. They harbor some unique creatures which are adapted to the harsh environment such as tarantulas, scorpions and collared lizards. They also contain wonderful native plants which are adapted to the dry conditions and poor soil yet thrive due to the decreased competition from less hardy weeds.
Due to the suppression of wildfires, glades in our area have been taken over by the Eastern Red Cedar. In the past natural wildfires and fires set by the Native Americans kept the cedar trees confined mainly to river bluffs. Today however they have taken over many glades and old fields.
We have several small glades on our farm and of course they were all completely dominated by the Eastern Red Cedar. There was one glade in particular above our farmhouse that was completely covered with cedars. My Grandmother, Hattie, remembers when she was a child the area was open and filled with wildflowers. Even before we cleared the cedars you could walk under them in the summer and find Shooting Stars and other native plants in bloom that still managed to survive.
Restoring glades on our farm has been one of our most successful and productive projects. The main thing which has to be done is to remove the cedar trees. There are many ways to accomplish this. If there are some really nice cedars you may want to harvest the logs which can be sold to cedar buyers who use them to make various cedar products. If you don’t want to tackle this yourself there are people who will pay you to come in and harvest the logs. In one area we allowed a couple of local youths who were looking for a way to earn some extra money to come in and cut cedar trees. Mainly what we have done is to use our skid steer and tree clipper to clear the trees. The main problem with the tree clearing is finding a place to go with all of the trees so you don’t end up with an area covered with fallen trees. This is where the skid steer and tree clipper comes in handy. It allows us to move the trees and stack them in large piles which we will burn in the winter when there is snow on the ground. We always make some brush piles around the outside of the area as cover for rabbits and other animals.
There are usually other types of trees mixed in with the cedars. We remove all the trees except for the Chinquapin Oaks which are native to the glades and really add to the beauty of the glades with their gnarled and twisted forms.
Once the glade is cleared you have a couple of options. You can just let it go and see what plants appear from the native seed bank already present in the soil, or you can add to the diversity by overseeding the area with a shallow soil native seed mix which can be purchased from one of our many native seed dealers in Missouri. I have included several links to their websites on our Links page.
If you are planning to overseed the timing of clearing the trees from the area is critical. You want to clear the area in late fall and seed it in December or January. This will allow your seeds to cold stratify and will reduce competition from the other plants which will naturally occur. If you clear the trees and allow the area to grow up through a summer and then plant your seeds you will have wasted your money because they will have a hard time competing with the plants which are already established.
We have had our most successful and beautiful wildflower restorations on glades. Thanks to the cedar trees and poor soil there isn’t nearly as much competition from weeds and other plants. The cedar trees also create an acidic soil which the native flowers thrive in. You will be amazed at the diversity of beautiful wildflowers that the poor rocky soil of the glades will support. It is such a dramatic improvement to take an area which is a monoculture of cedar trees and turn it into and area full of a diversity of plants, insects and animals. To me this is the reason that doing habitat restoration work can be so satisfying. To do the work and then be able to watch the changes occur.
Once again as in our other areas prescribed fire is the best way to maintain the glades. This increases the plant diversity and also kills back the cedar trees which will resprout from seed and try to regain control. Cedars are not at all fire resistance and are easily killed by fire, especially when they are small. We have three glades and we try to burn one each year. That way they get burned every three years.
The pictures on this page are taken from our three glades. I wish I would have had the foresight to take before and after pictures but I have been a lot better about doing the work then I have been about documenting it.