BiodiverseCity St. Louis logoBiodiverseCity 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.

BiodiverseCity St. Louis recognizes our region's reliance on biodiversity, the variety of life, and natural systems. We depend on biodiversity, not only for the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, but also for the basic health, livability and economic prosperity of our region.

Species Spotlight

Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)

Compass plant Lost your way? Look for your nearest compass plant! Its rigid, sandpaper-textured leaves often orient themselves in a north-to-south direction to avoid the harsh rays of the midday sun. Compass plants are tall, coarse, sunflower-esque perennial plants that can grow up to 10 feet tall. They have a thick, sticky stem that creates a resinous sap and deeply-cut, hairy leaves, which can be up to 2 feet in length themselves.

Early folklore says that pioneers used the leaves of the plant to help them find their way on cloudy days when the sun’s direction wasn’t obvious. This leaf orientation not only directs travelers, it also allows the plant to maximize its water use and increase its CO2 intake during photosynthesis. While plants require light to perform photosynthesis, too much light can damage the plant. By positioning its leaves to be parallel to the sun, the plant can limit the amount of light absorbed, which is less than if they were perpendicular to the sun. This leaf-turning, solar-tracking phenomenon is called heliotropism.

The botanical name, Silphium laciniatum, comes from both Greek and Latin origin. Silphium is an ancient Greek term for “resinous juice,” such as the sap the leaves produce, and laciniatum is the Latin word for “torn or jagged,” referring to the deeply cut leaves.

Compass plant is a member of the Aster family, which comprises 10 percent of all flowering plant species. The name Asteraceae, which translates to “star”, refers to the star-shaped flower head of the family members.

Compass plant is a perfect fit for any open prairie or native garden. The plant’s roots can grow more than 15 feet deep, making it drought resistant and effective for stormwater management. The large seeds are favored by birds and small mammals and attract large numbers of native bees. Due to its height, the plant provides a perch for birds and pollinators and, in some open spaces, the plant is grazed by livestock.

With its towering height, storytelling leaves, and beautiful yellow flowers, compass plants are a fantastic addition to any landscape!

For more information, visit the Missouri Botanical Garden's Plant Finder.

—Written by Hannah Gibson
Community Conservation Coordinator
EarthWays Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden



Local Organization to Love

Storyteller outside on sidewalk with people listeningSt. Louis Story Stitchers is celebrating 10 years of supporting mental health development and violence prevention through art and nature-based programming! Their Peace in the Prairie presentation explores the juxtaposition of urban life as experienced by African American people living in the St. Louis region with life on nearby endangered prairie lands. They recently installed a Pocket Prairie near Grandel Square to support urban biodiversity. Learn more at their webpage:



Ants, Beetles, Mosquitos—Oh My!

Citizen DNA Barcode Network logoThe EarthWays Center is partnering with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center and Webster University to host the Citizen DNA Barcode Network project at Missouri Botanical Garden. The Citizen DNA Barcode Network is a citizen science initiative that involves the community in collecting ants, mosquitos, and beetles in order to extract and sequence their DNA.
Learn more




Leadership Opportunity

Through a collaborative partnership led by Open Space STL, the Community Stewardship Alliance (CSA) is a conservation program intended to provide focused, trained, volunteer leadership to restore and maintain the natural areas within our St. Louis County Parks.

We are looking for committed individuals to step up and become Site Ambassadors to build a community of stewardship around the county parks’ natural areas to safeguard their future. Does that sound like you? Fill out the interest form!



Great Read

The River That Flows Beside Me book coverThe River That Flows Beside Me
written by Charlotte Guillain and illustrated by Jo Empson

From the top of a mountain, to flowing streams, to wetlands, and beyond, the rivers are home to all of us. Young minds can learn about how both humans and animals interact with one another and the river, and how we can work together to protect this natural resource.

This illustrated children’s book takes the reader down the river from source to sea to explore the changing landscapes along a river’s journey. The format of the pages trace the water as it flows through the river, and the inviting text includes the reader on each aspect of the journey.

This book is part of the Look Closer series, and includes “The Street Beneath My Feet,” “The Skies Above My Eyes,” and “The Sea Below My Toes.” Together, this series teaches us about our place in this ecosystem, tying the natural environment with built ones, and connecting humankind with diverse wildlife.

What animals call the river home? How do humans interact with the river, both for survival and recreation? What is a watershed? What can we do to protect our rivers? These questions are a few of what children can explore in the story and illustrations of “The River That Flows Beside Me.”

—Written by Hannah Gibson
Community Conservation Coordinator
EarthWays Center
Missouri Botanical Garden

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