This Month at Shaw Nature Reserve
Surviving Winter

What's in Bloom
Most of Missouri’s native plants are dormant during this time of year. Most trees drop their leaves while perennial herbaceous plants die down to their underground portions. Plants have evolved to reduce the amount of water in their root tissues and branches during winter months, as a result delicate roots and stems are less likely to freeze and break. One way we can help plants survive a deep freeze is by leaving leaf litter in the garden until spring; it creates an insulating blanket for the soil. Learn more about what to do in your garden during February here.

Featured Trail
The Prairie Trail is a quiet and still place in the winter but it is actually still full of insects and bugs. Many bees spend winter in the soil. Grasshoppers and ladybugs will seek shelter in the leaf litter. The woolly bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella) is a freeze-tolerant animal. Its body can withstand becoming frozen and it will not perish. As you hike from the Trail House north to the Sod House you can look out at the vast amount of grasses and forbs and know that it is full of life despite the quiet. Spend an evening enjoying the sights of the prairie by moonlight during our upcoming Valentine’s Night Hike.

Did You Know
Many of the plants in the Whitmire Wildflower Garden are propagated here. Our horticulture staff dedicates time each spring and fall collecting seeds of diverse species here at the Nature Reserve and in other local places (with permission). Terri Brandt, horticulturist and propagator, will spend time this winter sowing and growing these seeds that will later be planted in the garden. Learn how she does it and how you use the similar techniques at home during the Native Plant School: Greenhouse Propagation class.

Signs of wildlife can be found during the winter. The tracks of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) may be frozen in the mud of the trails. Scan the trees to catch a glimpse of a red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) on an oak limb. If you notice white drips that look like paint on tree stumps or logs, then look up to see if a barred owl (Strix varia) is perched overhead. Families can learn more about owls during our upcoming Little Nature Explorers: Owl Friends program.

Other animals use diverse strategies to survive the winter. The black rat snake ( Pantherophis obsoletus) will enter brumation; this is a term that describes the hibernation-like state that reptiles utilize during very cold weather. Often this type of snake will gather in large numbers for the winter. Flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) and bats will also congregate for the winter. The black bear (Ursus americanus) is a true hibernator and will slow its heart rate, metabolism, breathing, and lower its body temperature; this phase is also known as torpor. While black bears have passed through the Nature Reserve, we do not have any permanent residents.

Remember that Shaw Nature Reserve closes at 5 p.m. on these short winter days. Before visiting, make sure to check the weather and call our Visitor Center ahead of time at (314) 577-9555 to learn about road closures due to ice and snow.

Current Events

February 2 and 16
Think About Tables Workshop

February 22
Wetland Mitigation Bank Tour

Coming Soon

March 1
Build a Bluebird Nest Box

March 21 and 28
FrogWatch USA