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Take a Walk on the Wildside Saturday

Its crystal clear waters used to be a favorite haunt for moonshiners, but now they are a wildflower haven. Ron Mullikin, formerly the St. Francois State Park naturalist, will be leading an Earth Day Walk on the Wildside at Mooner’s Hollow Saturday in St. Francois State Park.

It’s a kickoff for the Grow Native! Landscape Challenge being sponsored this year by the Daily Journal and East Ozarks Audubon Society.

Mullikin says he chose Mooner’s Hollow for its diversity.

“At peak, it has more wildflowers than any other trail,” Mulliken said.  “They’re not necessarily bigger displays like the bluebells that cover the bottoms, but it offers a little more diversity.”

Mulliken has been out to inspect the trails and seen dogtooth violets and spring beauties popping up. He is also hoping for a few celandine poppies and other assorted species.

The walk will take about two hours and will begin at 10 a.m. at the first pavilion in the park. Entering the park, head up the hill and then turn left through the gate. Go downhill about one-quarter of a mile and turn left into the pavilion. There is a bridge nearby and that is the start of the trail.

Applications for the Grow Native! Landscape Challenge will be available prior to the walk and the Earth Day landscape makeover will be briefly explained. Applications are also available from the Farmington Press office in Farmington or the Daily Journal office in Park Hills.

The winner of the landscape challenge gets a $1,000 matching grant for the purchase of native plants and the chance to work with professional landscaper Linda Resinger to develop a design unique to the homeowner’s situation. They will also be given books from the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Nature Shop and a yearlong pass to Shaw Nature Reserve.

Those who apply early for the landscape challenge have a shot at winning a signed copy of Dave Mizejewski’s book, “Attracting Birds, Butterflies and other Backyard Wildlife.” A random applicant will be selected from among those received by May 15 to win the book.

This is the third year for the Grow Native! Landscape Challenge. The first year, a butterfly lawn was installed near the vegetable gardens of Faye Worley to clean up a weedy fence row. The second project was a rain garden at the home of Michaelle and Carl Hall, in a rocky, wet spot that didn’t want to grow anything.

Native plants have had thousands of years to adapt to the particular geography and climate of the area and don’t need a lot of TLC to thrive. This makes them environmentally friendly, particularly if you are replacing some of the traditional lawn with them.

Grass looks green, but it isn’t necessarily. It has to be mowed frequently, which takes gasoline, fertilizer and weed killer to maintain, as well as additional watering during dry months.

Homeowners who replace some of their lawn with native plants can reduce the amount of yardwork they’re doing while at the same time helping preserve native species and building wildlife habitat for birds and butterflies. Strategically placed bird or butterfly stations will not only beautify the landscape, but they can be entertaining to watch as well.

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