This Month at Shaw Nature Reserve
Fall ColorsWhat's in Bloom
Fall colors are appearing at Shaw Nature Reserve. The main gates of the Nature Reserve are abloom with the yellow hues of goldenrod. Many purple and white asters are blooming in the prairie and around the Pinetum Lake. Take a closer look at the tall grasses when visiting the prairie; you may notice the green foliage of big blue stem (Andropogon gerardii) transitioning to reddish bronze with hints of lavender as cooler temperatures arrive. The seed head of this tall grass branches into three parts, resembling a turkey’s foot, hence it is commonly called turkeyfoot grass.

Many prairie grasses, like big blue stem, Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and switch grass (Panicum virgatum), have root systems up to 10 feet deep. The deep roots help the plants survive fire, which reduces aggressive or invasive species and restores soil nutrients.

As part of our native plant conservation efforts, our Restoration team manages approximately 60 percent of the Nature Reserve with prescribed burns. Prescribed burning replicates the natural, landscape-scale fires that historically occurred on Midwestern prairies, woodlands, and wetlands regularly. At Shaw Nature Reserve, prescribed burns help to control the spread of aggressive species, like Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), and invasive species, like Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). Once invasive plants are removed, native species—both flora and fauna—can thrive. It’s exciting to see what native plants emerge in the spring after a burn.

Featured Trail
To enjoy a panoramic view of the fall foliage, hike to our Prairie Observation Platform or to the tipi. Both spots allow you to see for miles. You can access both of these areas by parking at the Trail House and following the prairie trail. Remember to look up as you walk, as many birds and monarchs are migrating now. You never know what you might see!

Did You Know
As the leaves begin to fall, so do seeds from many of our native forbs. You might see staff or volunteers collecting seeds. Our Horticulture team collects seeds to use in future plantings or to propagate during the winter. The Restoration team collect seeds to sow in recently cleared areas.

Did you know we have a Seed Bank? Seed banking is a valuable conservation tool that enables the long-term storage of genetic diversity of a large number of plant species. Meg Engelhardt, the Seed Bank Manager, and a crew of volunteers collect, clean, dry, record, and store seeds at low temperatures for future conservation and restoration uses. The Garden established the Seed Bank in 2013 to supplement local and global conservation efforts. By December 2017 the facility contained 3,863 dormant seed accessions, including 761 different taxa. Some of these seeds were collected by Garden horticulturists and researchers on visits to Japan, China, and the Republic of Georgia. Additionally, we have collections from over 25 percent of Missouri’s 2,000+ native plants stored in the Seed Bank, including 64 Species of Conservation Concern.

Many animals are preparing for winter. You are sure to see chipmunks and squirrels gathering acorns for their winter cache. The woolly bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella), the larval form of the Isabella tiger moth, is a reliable sign of fall. Some people believe you can predict the snow fall by the thickness of their hair or the length of winter by the width of their orange band.

With cooler temperatures and beautiful seasonal colors, fall is a popular time to visit Shaw Nature Reserve. A new gate system will be installed at the entrance later this fall. We will send a follow-up email about the new gates once more installation information is available.

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October 19 & 20
Native Plant School: Fine Gardening Symposium

Coming Soon

November 3 & 4
Art at Shaw Nature Reserve