|Master Gardener Candy Clark's love affair with wildflowers began when she and her husband moved to the Ozarks in December of 2003, from Amarillo, TX.
"The area we moved into had not been heavily developed...and I had never seen so many wildflowers. It became an adventure to identify each one and as the season progressed, so did the variety of flowers," said Clark.
Even though progress eventually found her, Clark says she wasn't satisfied to watch the secret stands of wildflowers near her Kimberling City home disappear forever under the imprints of new homes.
"Like voices being extinguished, never to be heard from again, I watched as new developments removed stands of wildflowers I had enjoyed. That was profoundly sad and I wanted to bring those wildflowers home and give them a chance to live," said Clark.
So she decided to take action. Since her first step was to get educated about wildflowers, she enrolled in the Master Gardener program at the University of Missouri Extension Center in Stone County. After finishing her 30 hours of Master Gardener training, Clark formed the "Wildflower Rescue Group" along with other interested members of her Master Gardener class.
Then shortly after forming, they set out on their first rescue mission. Members approached the construction supervisor for the new Foxwood Shores subdivision on Little Aunts Creek Road in the Kimberling City area. Members were interested in a particular hillside in the subdivision that was going to be bulldozed for a septic system. After getting permission from the supervisor, members of the group raced into action to dig out as many of the wildflowers as they could.
"Can you imagine, here we are a bunch of girls digging in the dirt while the construction boys were standing by their big machines, drinking coffee and watching us. They needed to get to work, but they were nice enough to wait for us," said Dr. Anne Wigg. "It was a frantic effort."
Clark developed a permission form that has to be filled out by the landowner before she and other Master Gardeners in the Wildflower Rescue Group do any work on private land. To date, a few hundred wildflower plants have been rescued in Stone County. Most have gone home with the individual rescuers.
"I have two acres of woods that are dedicated to native plants and flowers. It is a work in progress, but many plants have found a home there," Clark said. "I speak to them almost daily and I am always delighted to hear their voices."
To learn more about the Wildflower Rescue Group, contact Clark by e-mail here.
Editor's note: In the state of Missouri it is unlawful to remove any wildflower endangered or not from public land. This includes highway right-of-ways.
A review of a book about Missouri native flowers may be found here.
Dieter Beam, Master Gardener media liaison in Stone and Taney County contributed to this article.