Crops grown like those sown by Native Americans 1,000 years ago are growing again at Smallin Civil War Cave just south of Springfield.
Staff archeologist Eric Fuller planted corn, sunflowers, squash and other plants from seeds that have not been manipulated since they were originally grown by the Osage tribes and others that inhabited the area.
The gardens are part of the cave’s mission to educate people about the natural wonders of the Missouri Ozarks and its fascinating Native American history. Not only will they help people better understand where foods came from and how they have changed over the years, patrons also will learn about the diet of the people who were here when Europeans arrived in the Americas, Fuller said.
The gardens will be a focal point of a new tour offered on the cave property titled “Forest of the Osage.” A hike through the forest will give people a new look at the trees and plants of the Ozarks; legends about the plants; and ways the Osage Native Americans used plants for construction, food and medicine.
Smallin Civil War Cave offers a variety of other tours and events, including tours of the cave itself; Civil War Tours in which patrons enjoy dinner around a campfire with guides dressed in Civil War-era costumes telling stories about the past; and Civil War Christmas tours featuring hot cocoa, a cave tour and holiday lights.
Cave tours teach lessons about the archeology, biology, geography, anthropology and history.
The cave is open year round and the paved cave trails are easily traversed by wheelchairs.