BiodiverseCity St. Louis
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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.


City Nature Challenge 2021


It's here! The 2021 City Nature Challenge is happening all around the world this weekend: April 30–May 3. This will be the fourth year that the St. Louis metro area* will be participating in the global event, coordinated by iNaturalist, to document the most species in four days. More than 350 cities and metro regions will be taking part.

Here's how to participate:

  1. Download the FREE iNaturalist app. Find instructions for downloading the app on the iNaturalist website or go directly to the app store.
  2. Take photos of plants, animals, insects, and other life forms. You can do this anywhere across the bi-state* region.
  3. Upload your images to the iNaturalist app!

* The 2021 City Nature Challenge – St. Louis Metro project is happening region-wide! In Missouri: Crawford Co., Franklin Co., Jefferson Co., Lincoln Co., St. Charles Co., St. Francois Co., St. Louis City, St. Louis Co., and Warren Co. In Illinois: Bond Co., Calhoun Co., Clinton Co., Jersey Co., Macoupin Co., Madison Co., Marion Co., Monroe Co., St. Clair Co.

Learn more

What kind of observations will you find in your backyard? Read our Species Spotlight below to learn about a common flower you may see popping up nearby!


Species Spotlight

violetCommon violet (Viola sororia) is a native herbaceous perennial whose purple petals signify the vibrant beginning of spring. Though this ground-covering plant is small, its legends and ecological impacts are mighty. As common violet begins to bloom from March through June, it provides Missouri with an abundance of food for wildlife, nectar and habitat for pollinators, wild edible delicacies for humans and a line of defense against some pesky invasive plants. This plant also has a powerful legend associated with it from the Iroquois, which follows the journey of two lovers from enemy tribes whose love causes the first violets to bloom.

The common violet is known by many names, including common blue violet, meadow violet, butterfly violet, woolly blue violet and downy blue violet. Common violets have heart-shaped, scalloped leaves and five flower petals that can range from being blue-violet to white with purple veining in color. 

Missouri is home to seventeen species of violets, most of which look so much alike that the only way to distinguish one species from another is by examining their leaves, which also appear differently depending on their stage of maturity. The violet that looks most strikingly different from the common violet is known as bird’s-foot violet (Viola pedata).  The bird’s-foot violet has deeply dissected leaves that resemble a bird's foot, and their petals are slightly pointed and range from pale lilac to lavender in color. 

Violet blossoms can be found all across the state of Missouri on hillsides, in open woodlands, on woodland borders, near streams and perhaps they may even be popping up in your own backyard. 

Although many see violets appearing in lawns as a weed to quickly be rid of, these flowering plants actually provide a wide variety of benefits to the ecologically conscious gardener, whether you’re novice to the practice or a long-term expert. Leaving some common violets in your yard can help to feed butterflies, bees, rabbits, birds and white-tailed deer. Violets also provide important ground-cover under perennials and shrubs that can be helpful as habitat to nesting pollinators. Some butterflies, such as the variegated fritillary butterfly, will even lay their eggs on the plants’ leaves, showcasing how important violets can be for nectar and pollen-loving guests. As a native plant, common violets can even help to outcompete some invasive plants, such as mock strawberry. 

In addition to the common violet’s benefits to nature’s critters, they can also be a fun addition to the kitchen as wild edibles. Their blossoms can be made into jelly, syrup, used as sugar confections to add to baked recipes and they can even be tossed fresh into salads. Violets are best eaten when they’re young, for the older they get, the tougher they become. (Discover a simple violet syrup recipe.) 

It is important to note that while most violet species are edible, the yellow-flowering variety are not. As with any plant or food, some people can have a mild reaction to eating them, so be sure to try your violet concoctions in small amounts before consuming it in large quantities. This safety precaution can be applicable to all new foods and is highly recommended as you explore the realm of wild edibles.

Contributed by Aisha Muhammad, Missouri Department of Conservation.