Newsletter of the Columbia Audubon Society | Summer 2019

Tue. Jun. 11, 2019

News & Notes, Summer 2019

– by John Besser, CAS President.

Well, you can tell by the heat and humidity that it’s June, and for Columbia Audubon Society that means our fiscal year (FY2018) is over. At our meeting on May 15, the CAS Board of Directors took stock of our accomplishments and responsibilities at the end of the fiscal year:

60th Anniversary. The biggest event of this past year was no doubt the 60th anniversary celebration held in April at the Boone County Historical Society galleries at Nifong Park. We had a great time greeting past and present CAS members and officers, as well as some distinguished guests, and we enjoyed the recognition of our society in proclamations received from the Missouri Legislature and the City of Columbia.

Budget. The Board passed a budget of $19,733 for FY2019 (which started June 1), a 5% increase over last year. We actually ended FY18 with a substantial budget surplus of $8625, due to a very successful COMO Gives fundraising campaign and greater than expected earnings from our endowment. Our biggest expenses in FY18 were for education: Band with Nature, along with grants to teachers and students, made up almost half of our total spending.

Changes on the Board. CAS has a strong core of Officers, Board Members, and Committee Chairs, but as we start a new year, we need to recruit members to take on these now-vacant positions:

  • Eric Reuter resigned after a distinguished tenure as CHAT editor
  • Eric Wood completed his exhausting term as Field Trip Chair
  • Lori Turner completed her 3-year term as elected Board Member
  • Lori Hagglund has resigned as Hospitality Chair
  • Conservation Chair remains vacant


Do you want become more active in CAS? We have identified candidates for some of the vacant  positions, but others are wide open. Even if all these positions were filled, CAS still needs energetic volunteers to help with our standing committees or to get involved in special projects — or lead us off in an entirely new direction!  If you think you might want to get more involved, just contact me at or get in touch with any of the board members listed on the CAS webpage by August 1st.

Summer book discussion, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 19: Welcome to Subirdia, by John M. Marzluff. Don’t forget to join CAS at the Columbia Public Library for an open discussion of this interesting book. This was rescheduled from a winter event canceled due to weather. Even if you haven’t read the book, or haven’t read it since the winter, please join us anyway to take part in the broader discussion of how individual and collective decisions can help human landscapes become more tolerant of and integrated with the natural world. This event will be followed by an hour-long walk through nearby Steward Park.

Have a great summer, and I hope we will be hearing from you soon!

John Besser

CAS President



Tue. Jun. 11, 2019

CANS Prairie Update

– by John Besser, CAS President.

Yesterday, I paid a visit to the 15-acre prairie restoration project at the Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary, off Bray Avenue in West Columbia.  I think this is the fourth growing season for this project, and each year we see new plants reaching maturity.

Three of the “new” species are members of the genus Silphium. They all bloom in late summer, with tall flower stalks topped with yellow sunflower-like blooms, but it is the leaves of these plants that makes them each distinctive. Cup Plant has large irregular leaves that join around the stem to form small “cups” that capture rainwater (Why? I don’t know). Prairie Dock has large oval leaves at its base that are the size of the blade on a canoe paddle. My favorite of the Silphiums is Compass Plant. Its basal leaves are deeply cut into elaborate jagged shapes. This plant get its name because the leaves stand vertically and line up on a north-south plane (Why? Another mystery.)

Cup Plant, Prairie Dock, and Compass Plant at CANS, June 2019. Photos by John Besser.


Another important group that’s showing up in good numbers this year are the milkweeds, which are host plants for the Monarch caterpillar. The plants I saw yesterday had leaves that varied from oval to almost lance-shaped, and I think these are Common Milkweed and Purple Milkweed, respectively. Some of the common milkweeds are already in flower, and some plants had already been chewed on extensively, but I couldn’t find any caterpillars.

I also noted several other species that have not been very abundant in previous years. Rattlesnake Master has an interesting name and a distinctive appearance. It has stiff, yucca-like leaves and a flower stalk topped with spiky white ball-shaped flowers. I also noticed some native thistles. Although there are some non-native thistles in the prairie, the native species tend to have long lance-shaped leaves with slightly serrated edges and a distinctive white surface on the underside of the leaves.

Milkweed, Rattlesnake Master, and native thistle at CANS, June 2019. Photos by John Besser.

I hope you will have a chance to enjoy the diversity of our prairie. Although the tall prairie vegetation is pretty impenetrable, you can easily see most of the wildflowers by walking along the Scott’s Branch Trail or the mowed trails that run east and west from the trailhead at the parking area at the north end of Cunningham Road.


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