Whitmire Wildflower Garden

The Whitmire Wildflower Garden is a place for year-round walking and for appreciating and learning about nature and natural landscaping. 

Garden paths take you through five plant community areas (woodland, wetland, glade, savanna and prairie) and a home gardening area which includes a native perennial garden, rock garden, prairie garden, water garden, woodland garden and rain garden. Over 800 Missouri native plant species are on display.

The Whitmire Wildflower Garden is located next to the Bascom House. Picking or digging wildflowers is strictly prohibited. Please, no smoking or pets. Visitors, including photographers, must remain on paths.


Home Gardening Area

This area includes a native perennial garden, rock garden, prairie garden, water garden, woodland garden, rain garden, patio garden and ground cover garden.

The plants in these garden demonstrations are native to Missouri and are useful for home gardening and small outdoor school classrooms. They are available from local nurseries and mail-order catalogs.

Native plants are excellent, low-maintenance choices for home gardening because they are adapted to local conditions. They also provide habitat and food for hundreds of species of native insects, birds and mammals.


Native Perennial Garden


Some of the most popular gardening perennials are native to Missouri including garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), blue wild indigo (Baptisia australis), and blue-flag iris (Iris virginica). They have showy blooms, are disease resistant, are hardy, and are long-lived perennials in Missouri.

Rock Garden

This small garden is essentially a pile of crushed limestone and boulders with a small amount of organic matter and clay mixed in. The plants growing here come from natural limestone glades, rocky dry areas with shallow soil and few trees.


Water Garden


Water gardens are excellent places to attract a wide variety of aquatic insects, dragonflies, frogs, salamanders, and  birds. This small water garden is simply constructed with a rubber liner and flat rocks around the edge to hold the liner in place. A small solar-powered pump at the bottom circulates water into a “birdbath” boulder to the rear.


Dry Woodland Garden

Though many woodland wildflowers bloom in spring, there are a number that bloom in summer and fall and grow in wet or dry soils. Among them are skullcap (Scutellaria incana), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), yellow wingstem (Verbesina helianthoides), and several species of late-summer blooming asters and goldenrods.


Prairie Garden


This prairie garden has several features that make it appropriate for home landscapes. Prairie dropseed grass (Sporobolus heterolopis) is planted as a groundcover at the edge of a walking path with a split-rail fence between it and the prairie plants creating a clean transition. Unlike typical lawns, prairie landscapes need mowing only once a year and they provide excellent habitat for wildlife.

Groundcover Garden


Native Missouri groundcovers are showcased between the home landscaping shelter and the patio garden.  This area gives the home landscaper alternatives to traditional non-native, and often invasive, groundcovers. Native suckering sedges will also have an important place in the groundcover garden in addition some taller species.

Rain Garden


Rain gardens function like miniature natural watersheds. They slow down, capture and absorb water rather than let it quickly run away, causing erosion. This design was created based on the original topography to collect rain water from nearby buildings and provide a beautiful setting for an outdoor patio.


Patio Garden


The patio garden is located next to the carriage house providing a beautiful outdoor classroom and meeting area. Species used around the patio are drought tolerant so as to need a minimum amount of watering. Several container gardens are also displayed on the patio showcasing a variety of beautiful arrangements. Between the patio and rain garden a variety of sedges grow on the hillside.

Landscapes of the Whitmire Wildflower Garden

Bascom House

One of the original buildings on the site, the Bascom House, built in 1879, was restored in 1996. The mansion houses an array of exhibits which illustrate the interaction between humans and the land in eastern Missouri over the last 12,000 years.

Upper Woodland


Mature white, post and chinquapin oaks are the dominant tree species in this open woodland. Beneath these trees mowed lawn has been killed and replanted with native upland shade-loving species. During the first two years of establishment, these areas are weeded, mulched and watered similarly to any other garden but by year three very little weeding and watering is needed. 

Limestone Glade


Limestone Glades are outcroppings of limestone on hot, sunny slopes and are common throughout the Ozarks.  Many showy plants like Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea), pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), and blue wild indigo (Baptisia australis) are tolerant of these harsh conditions and are growing here.

Pine Savanna


Shortleaf pine is native throughout the Ozark Region in Missouri and as far north as the La Barque Hills area of Eureka, Missouri. It typically is associated with sandstone outcrops and various acid-loving plants like blueberries, mountain azalea, and legumes like leadplant (Amorpha canescens), goats rue (Tephrosia virginiana), and cream wild indigo (Baptisia bracteata)


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Spring Pool


This area in the wildflower garden is a demonstration of a spring-fed pool. It is planted at the edges with many wet-loving plants like royal fern (Osmunda regalis) and sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilus), several sedge species (Carex spp.), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), soft rush (Juncus effusus), and pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata). Water lilies (Nymphaea odorata) are planted in containers which sit on the floor of this concrete pool.

Sedge Meadow


Sedge Meadows occur naturally in wet prairies, spring areas and river flood plains. They support a rich array of plants like queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra), turtlehead (Chelone obliqua), blue-flag iris (Iris virginica) and about 140 species of sedges (Carex) in Missouri, some of which are growing in this area. 

Persimmon Grove


Though we do not know the history of this persimmon grove, it appears to be planted with several varieties of native persimmon. Some varieties bear large fruits and some are small. Some ripen in early September, some in October, and even one that ripens in late November. The fruits are edible raw or cooked and are often used in muffin, pancake, and bread recipes.

Tallgrass Prairie


A  variety of grasses, including big bluestem, switch and Indian grass, and forbs (prairie wildflowers) like coneflowers and compass plant are typical of prairies and are in peak display in July and August. Tallgrass prairie once covered millions of square miles and comprised about 40% of Missouri. The prairie area here is about 10 acres and is managed by fire during winter.

More info about creating your own prairie garden is available in our Native Landscaping Manual.

Lower Woodland

Woodland wildflowers bloom mostly in early spring before trees leaf out. At that time of year you will see masses of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), wood poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), ferns and many other beautiful woodland plants.



This small constructed wetland was a cattle pond in the early 1900’s. In 2002 it was enlarged, repaired, and seeded with a diverse selection of wetland plants. It has several species of sedge, rush, and bulrush, and also rosemallow (Hibiscus), autumn sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and false aster (Boltonia asteroides) to name a few. This area is home to a host of dragonflies, frogs, salamanders, and birds.

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Green Rooftop

In spring of 2012 Shaw Nature Reserve built a green rooftop on top of its new bathroom near the picnic pavilions. First, the building was engineered to support the extra weight! You can’t just put a green roof on top of any building. The next step involved rolling out a protective layer of rubber liner. Then inter-locking rigid plastic trays were spread out over the entire area followed by a sixinch layer of soil that was hoisted onto the roof with a crane. The soil is a lightweight mixture of heat-expanded rock, compost and sand. In early May seed was hand sown. Seed had been kept cool and moist in a refrigerator for over two months to break seed dormancy. Germination occurred within one week followed by a light fertilizing three weeks later.
Seeding a Green Rooftop at Shaw Nature Reserve

Native Edibles

Get Wild, Go Native