Whoopie Cat Mountain Research Natural Area

[photo:] Whoopie Cat Mountain RNA. Photo by Lucy Tyrrell, USDA Froest Service.

Whoopie Cat Mountain RNA contains relatively undisturbed examples of glade and dry upland forest natural community types. The area was identified as significant by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (1978) because of its very high quality limestone glade and the presence of two uncommon plant species: the orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida) and the crested coralroot orchid (Hexalectris spicata). The latter species is a Shawnee National Forest Listed species and is also listed as an Illinois Endangered Species. The area also contains another Illinois Threatened Species, the climbing milkweed (Matelea obliqua).

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
The climatological data are from the collection station at New Burnside, IL, which has records dating from 1931. The station is located 27 miles (44 km) north west of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Annual precipitation averages approximately 46 inches (116 cm) and ranges from 32 to 70 inches (81-177 cm). Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, although prolonged dry spells during the growing season are not uncommon. Average annual snowfall ranges between 10 to 15 inches (25.4 - 38.1 cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Summer maximum temperature reach or exceed 100 °F in two thirds of the summers. July and August are the warmest months with average daily temperatures near 90 °F. January and February are the coldest months, with temperatures dropping to as low as -15 °F.
Elevation ranges from 390 feet (119 m) to 490 feet (149 m).
Geology and Soils:
Rocks of the glade are of the Golconda Group of the Chester Series (Mississippian). Two formations of the Golconda Group are represented on the RNA; the uppermost is the dark, medium-grained argillaceous Beech Creek Formation, underlain by Fraileys Shale which consists of thin beds of calcareous limestone. Much of the RNA has exposed bedrock, and where there is soil present, it is thin and results from weathering of the bedrock.
Aquatic Features:
The RNA is located just north of Whoopie Cat Lake and just south of Tecumseh Lake (both man-made lakes), and runoff from the RNA drains into both lakes. A small spring and seep are found near the top of the glade on the northwest-facing slope, which yields enough water during the wet seasons to supply a small surface flow. The RNA is located within the Big Creek watershed.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Interior Low Plateau, Shawnee Hills (222D)
Lesser Shawnee Hills (222Di)
Plant Communities:
post oak-white oak-chinquapin oak: Dry upland forest natural community
little bluestem-Indian grass-tall dropseed: limestone glade
SAF Cover Types (list acres): Kuchler Types (list acres):
46 Eastern redcedar (1.4) 74 Cedar glades (1.4)
52 White oak-black oak-northern red oak (15.6) 91 oak-hickory forest (15.6)
Common Shrub Species:
Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), redbud (Cercis canadensis), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), roughleaf dogwood (C. drummondii), hawthorn (Crataegus sp.), southern black haw (Viburnum rufidulum).
Common Herbaceous Species:
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparius), Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), basal-leaved rosin-weed (Silphium terebinthinaceum), globular coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), prairie coneflower (Echinacea pallida), obedience (Physostegia virginiana), crested coral-root (Hexalectris spicata), Matelea obliqua.
Common Mammal Species:
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), coyote (Canis latrans), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginianus), gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus).
Common Bird Species:
Pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), common turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).

Related Reports and Publications

Grahame, A. 1996. The Vegetation of Cave Hill, Stoneface, and Whoopie Cat Mountain Research Natural Areas in the Shawnee National Forest. Master of Science Thesis. Department of Plant Biology, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Grahame, A., and P. Robertson. 1994. The woody vegetation of six research natural areas (RNAs) in southern Illinois. ASB Bulletin 41(2): 214.

Hutchinson, Max D. 1987. Establishment record for the Whoopie Cat Mountain Research Natural Area within the Shawnee National Forest, Hardin County, Illinois. (pdf) Unpublished report on file at the Northern Research Station, Rhinelander, and the Shawnee Supervisor's office, Harrisburg, IL. 67 pages with appendices.

Shimp, J. and P.A. Robertson. 1994. Ground layer vegetation of six Research Natural Areas (RNA’s) in Southern Illinois. ASB Bulletin 41(2): 139.

Last Modified: May 6, 2021