This Month at Shaw Nature Reserve

Remember that Shaw Nature Reserve currently closes at 5 p.m. and advanced e-tickets are required. Before visiting, make sure to check the weather and our website to learn about road closures due to ice and snow.

What’s In Bloom
Enjoy panoramic, leaf-free views this January at Shaw Nature Reserve. Even though it is chilly, a brisk hike can be a rewarding and warming activity, especially while looking for tracks in the snow and practicing winter tree identification skills. While most trees have lost their foliage, some retain their leaves, including some oak (Quercus), beech (Fagus), and hornbeam (Carpinus) species. This unique retention of leaves through winter is called marcescence, and theories on the retention include protecting the new bud or deterring browsing deer. Eventually the leaves will fall off just before the new leaves emerge.

Featured Trail
Brush Creek Trail is a great place to hike in the winter. Starting from Cypress Lake, you will hike south past several evergreens such as Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), American holly (Ilex opaca), Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), and shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata). Most of these plants are in the Whitmire Wildflower Garden, which Brush Creek Trail borders on one side.

The shortleaf pine and eastern white pine are directly across the trail from each other in the upper woodland garden of the Wildflower Garden. One way to tell these species apart is by the amount of needles they have bundled together. The Eastern white pine has needles in bundles of five and the shortleaf pine has needles in bundles of two or three. As you continue on your hike, you’ll notice that several trees have identification cards on them, which is a great way to practice your winter tree identification skills.

Make sure to stop on the bridge of Brush Creek and look down for ice formations in the creek. The trail will eventually take you to the Trail House where there are restrooms and an open-air pavilion. Retrace your steps back to your car to complete almost 2 miles.

Did You Know?
Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife during the winter months, and they can provide us with delicious maple syrup! Many people are familiar with maple syrup, but did you know you can also make syrup from the sap of other trees, like birch or even oak? Warm days following below-freezing temperatures at night get the maple sap flowing. If we are lucky enough to have the right weather, we will make maple syrup here at the Nature Reserve. Weather permitting, starting in February, we will have a short trail with signage to tell you about the syrup making process in our ‘Sugar Grove.’ No registration is required for this great activity during your visit.

As you hike near the edge of the woodlands, make sure to look up and you might glimpse a red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched on a limb. Winter is also breeding season for barred owls (Strix varia) and great horned owls (Bubo virginianus). You can print a raptor guide from the Missouri Department of Conservation starting on page 17 here. Use this guide as a scavenger hunt while you hike. Show us what you’ve found! You can upload photos of winter wildlife or scenery to our Facebook page or use #SNRWinter.