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Otus the Head Cat

Stuttgart fears official state soil swept under rug

By Michael Storey

This article was published August 2, 2014 at 1:58 a.m.

Dear Otus,

Yesterday [Monday] the paper's ActiveStyle section featured an article with all the state's official symbols listed, such as official bird, tree, gem and even historical cooking vessel.

I am offended and outraged that, once again, Arkansas' official state soil, the Stuttgart soil series, was left off the list.

My organization, the Society for the Preservation of Native Arkansas Soils, works diligently and digs deep to raise soil awareness and we're weary of our native soil being treated like dirt.

It's this kind of omission that makes Arkansas the laughing stock of the nation, especially in Missouri, which even has a MenfroFest each year to celebrate its state soil.

-- Lucille Hartz,


Dear Lucille,

It was wholly a pleasure to hear from you, and on behalf of the entire staff, may I extend our most heartfelt apologies and thank you for your diligence and good work. We promise to rectify this egregious error to the best of our abilities.

In our defense, however, I have been informed that the ActiveStyle article was in no way intended to have an inclusive list of all of Arkansas' official state symbols. The four official state songs, for example, were also not included.

In further defense, the official symbols that were mentioned were taken directly from the official online list of official Arkansas symbols as published by Mark Martin, the official Secretary of State for Arkansas.

If you check out Martin's list at, you will notice that nowhere is there mentioned an official Arkansas state soil. It's a dirty shame, but the official state soil has gotten stepped on ever since it was designated in 1997.

That's why we laud your continued efforts to bring recognition to the Stuttgart soil series -- a jewel among the nation's soil series and a sterling representative of the finest dirt Arkansas has to offer.

The most cursory research reveals that the surrounding states all had their official soils designated much earlier than Arkansas.

Missouri, as you mention, has its Menfro series. It's a fine, rich soil with a fruity bouquet. The Ruston, Houston and Dickson series represent, in order, Louisiana, Texas and Tennessee.

Oklahoma's official soil is Port silt loam, and Mississippi's is Natchez silt loam.

With Act 890, the Arkansas General Assembly of 1997 finally got around to designating an official state soil. And a glorious soil it is over there in the Grand Prairie.

The Stuttgart soil series is a member of a soil family of fine, smectitic, thermic, albaquultic hapludalfs and covers some 200,000 acres of east and southeast Arkansas. It's exceptionally rich, dark and dense with a notably silky, luxe feel that makes for easy tilling.

When ploughed, its montmorillonitic natrudalfs exhibit a bouquet that opens with a potpourri of switchgrass and bluestem, deciduous holly, winged elm, farkleberry and slate.

Certain soil is called "a series" because it has various deposited layers. The Stuttgart series has three layers in a predictable order. The upper layers are of different silt loams, and the subsoils are rich in red and gray silty clays that have a slow permeability. That makes it ideal for the growing of rice.

This is some of the finest agricultural land in the world. It's embarrassing that it took so long to honor it.

After all, the state's official rock (bauxite) got its designation in 1967. Our official language (English) was picked in 1987, the same year as the official state fruit and vegetable, the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato.

(Technically, the tomato is a berry -- a fruit -- but gets treated as a veggie.)

So kudos to you, Lucille, and the fine work of the SPNAS. Your organization and its 75 county chapters are on the front lines of education and defense in keeping Arkansas free of invasive soils.

Missouri Menfro, a moderately permeable loess-based soil, is especially insidious. It has found its way across our borders disguised as potting soil in a number of popular home and garden stores.

Menfro is especially undesirable because when it washes down drains, it displaces native Arkansas soil at an alarming rate. Missouri has 780,000 acres of it, so it's easy to export.

Until next time, Kalaka reminds you that the Stuttgart series makes an excellent facial mask. The albaquultic qualities are a natural exfoliant and moisturizer and a favorite of estheticians everywhere.


Fayetteville-born Otus the Head Cat's award-winning column of

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