Monday, June 22, 2009

Shaw Nature Reserve

Shaw Nature Reserve is located just south of Saint Louis, Missouri, in the town of Gray Summit. It is a 2400 acre private nature reserve run by the Missouri Botanical Garden as an extension. It was established in 1925 when coal smoke pollution in Saint Louis threatened the live plant collection (especially the orchids) of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. The plan was to move important plant collections out of the area of the heaviest coal pollution. The orchid collection was moved in 1926, but no other plants, because coal use diminished, resulting in a subsequent reduction in air pollution from coal smoke. It is now dedicated to environmental education, restoration of native plants, and public enjoyment of the natural world.
There are numerous distinct areas within the reserve, including a large prairie, wetlands (with a water blind from which herons can be observed), scenic locations for contemplation, and 14 miles of hiking trails---some of which are wheelchair accessible.
There are many species of wildflowers throughout the acreage. I have always called the flowers above "black-eyed susans", and they are one of my favorite summer blooms. In the Visitor Center, one can buy seeds of wildflowers, so you can enjoy the wildflowers by planting them where you live. Seeing a field of flowers, or gorgeous big trees, reminds me of Jesus' words recorded in Luke 12:27-28: "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!" These are especially good words to remember when the woes of today's economy have you burdened down with worry. Maybe you just need to get out and take a look at God's beautiful creation in the world outdoors!
Several historic homes are still located on the property. The house above is the Joseph H. Bascom house, and contains nature exhibits inside. Some structures are available to rent for private gatherings. Shaw Nature Reserve is open year round, 7 am to sunset. The Visitor Center hours vary with the season, so check their website, for more details, or phone 314-451-3512. The website will tell you about the classes available, group tours via the "wilderness wagon", special events such as progressive dinner parties, fees, and maps of the various hiking trails. Miles of smiles! Tricia
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