BiodiverseCity St. Louis
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Welcome!
BiodiverseCity St. Louis is a growing network of organizations and individuals throughout the greater St. Louis region who share a stake in improving quality of life for all through actions that welcome nature into our urban, suburban and rural communities. Learn more about this effort, and join in.


Take Action Today…and Make It Count

Throughout St. Louis, every day, people are making big and small changes to their backyards, balconies, streetscapes, schoolyards, parking lots, and play areas. Some are doing this because they love nature and want to experience more of it in their daily lives. Others recognize that native plants in the right places help prevent flooding, clean and cool our air and improve human health and well-being. Still others embrace the positive impact that leafy streets, accessible parks, hiking/biking trails and other quality green spaces have on property values and the economic vibrancy of our region.

For all these reasons and more, the BiodiverseCitySTL Network invites each of the 2.9 million citizens of the greater St. Louis bi-state region to take action. In this spirit, we are excited to launch the Nature in Our Neighborhoods citizen action project. No matter who you are or where you live, all of us can do something to beautify, bio-diversify and better the communities in which we live, work, learn and play. To get started, check out our curated list of expert ideas and local resources from across our region, connect with others and share your stories.

 

Species Spotlight

Pawpaw fruit and flower

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)

Pawpaw grows North America’s largest native edible fruit, with a custardy taste like banana crossed with mango, that has sustained people of every color and culture living here. Pawpaw is the only member of its tropical plant clan (Annonaceae, the custard apples) that thrives coast-to-coast in temperate climates, cold-hardy up to Zone 5, now into Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The “Pawpaw Patch” of children’s song is formed by underground runners, as these prolific understory trees spread into dense groves. Flies pollinate the striking garnet colored flowers, so a grower may festoon tree limbs with rotting meat to ensure a good fruit harvest. Are you sweet on the pawpaw yet?

This plant seems totally tropical, from broad leaf size and shape to the look, taste and smell of its fruits, but pawpaw grows well from our midwestern floodplains to river bottomlands—and in the urban and suburban mini-orchards of sustainable food advocates. EarthDance Farms, the organic farmer-training non-profit in Ferguson, Missouri, got a state Department of Agriculture grant in 2014 to dig into pawpaw fruit production, part of a program to grow demand for Missouri specialty crops. EarthDance promotes pawpaw to local folks with recipe samples at Ferguson Farmers Market, to encourage including this hardy tree in home and community gardens, for fresh or frozen fruit healthy eating.

Pawpaws don’t need much space, as little as five feet between trees, but you do need to grow at least three cultivars to ensure fruit production. Ask a local native tree specialist for varieties like Allegheny, Shenandoah, Susquehanna, Potomac and Wabash, each known for firm, fleshy fruits with creamy texture.

Pawpaw is relatively pest and disease free, ideal for organic growing. Even deer avoid eating pawpaw leaves!

Pawpaw is a host plant for zebra swallowtail butterflies (Eurytides marcellus), whose larvae feed exclusively on young pawpaw leaves. The relationship between zebra swallowtail and pawpaw is similar to that of monarch butterflies and milkweed plants. Compounds called acetogenins, present in the pawpaw leaves, remain present in trace amounts in zebra swallowtail caterpillar bodies, making these larvae unpalatable to birds and other predators. The incredible beauty of zebra swallowtails and the minimal damage this caterpillar does to pawpaw leaves make this relationship of no concern in the native garden or fruit grove.

Hear and read more: KDHX Earthworms talks with Andrew Moore, author of Pawpaw, In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit (Chelsea Green, 2015).

 

Great Reads

Braiding Sweetgrass book and author Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass
Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Milkweed Editions, 2013)

This book has grown deep roots connecting ecological, multi-cultural, scientific and poetic literature with human beings world-wide. Kimmerer voices these relations from her experience as a mother, scientist, decorated professor and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Her subtitle, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants, modestly states last what may be her greatest example for our kind: that her native willingness to learn from plants evolved through her desire to learn about plants as a scholar botanist, into her joyful capacity to inspire us to embrace both modes. Quotes from Braiding Sweetgrass let us glimpse a way of being that Kimmerer warmly invites us to join.

I wonder if much that ails our society stems from the fact that we have allowed ourselves to be cut off from that love of, and from, the land. It is medicine for broken land and empty hearts.

This book was published in 2013. Think about world events at that time, and then recall where we are now. In the Big Time Out for our species that a virus recently compelled, many humans found in Nature a place to be OK, even with Earth’s climate changing around us. As infection from the broken bonds within our species has boiled to the surface, demanding radical change of treatment and healing, biodiverse examples in Nature stand ready to inform our changes, and give solace as we go.

Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.

“Gift” may be the most written noun in this book. Kimmerer reveals reciprocity as the beating heart of indigenous worldview. Giving is continuous. Receiving with gratitude is valued, yes, but even that hemisphere of exchange gives back by being appreciative. Getting fades from the story when a generous spirit powers exchange and springs the trap of Having so that hazard is removed. Being Willing to step into this mode, even amidst our human pandemics of hatred and greed opens a way to grow wholeness, kindness and honor into our species, now.

Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.

As a girl, Kimmerer observed and felt from plants that the vivid hues of autumn-flowering purple asters and goldenrod were significant in their dance with clouds of pollinating butterflies. As a student working to earn her Ph.D., she confirmed in the terms of science that these complementary colors are a real force for plant and insect population health, by boosting their mutual attraction. Could right brain and left brain, co-habiting in our skulls, both be speaking true? Her story is a fun ride to find out.

This is really why I made my daughters learn to garden—so they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.

This book is all about how loving relations will transform conflict in opposites into complementary partnerships: mother and daughters, humans and plants, inquiry into and inquiry with. Reading it is medicine to treat and heal our divisive views.

All powers have two sides, the power to create and the power to destroy. We must recognize them both, but invest our gifts on the side of creation.

In writing Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer gives a clear directive—like a caring mother to a child intent on messing up. She speaks for Earth as mother of all life, to the messer-up in each of us. Kindly. Reading, you’re willing to admit about what’s good for you, that Homo sapiens, our “intelligent” species, has a lot to learn.

Hear and read more from: Krista Tippett, host of the podcast “On Being”, in conversation with Kimmerer about Intelligence in All Life from Braiding Sweetgrass and her first book, Gathering Moss, which was honored with the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing. Kimmerer spoke in 2012 on Reclaiming the Honorable Harvest for TEDx Sitka. Dr. Kimmerer’s work as Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment is profiled online at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

 

A Community Initiative to Promote, Protect and Plan for Biodiversity Throughout the Greater St. Louis Region

Supported by Ameren Missouri

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Nearby Nature

Nearby Nature map

Spend more of your time exploring and stewarding St. Louis' great outdoors. Download our Nearby Nature Map featuring 50 places to love and more than 100 things to do!

Events and Opportunities

Usually we include events and experiences; talks, workshops, and classes; and volunteer opportunities in this section. We know that things are slowly starting to open back up in our region, so we encourage you to use good judgement and follow all local and CDC guidelines when choosing to attend events or gatherings in person. Check back in the next newsletter for ways to get involved in your community. Stay safe and healthy!