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Bean Queen Gavels Plant Group To Order Every Wednesday

Photo: Castor Bean Plant

By Don Corrigan

Lulu Dunsford, the “Bean Queen” of Webster Groves Castor Bean Society, (WGCBS), gavels her unruly plant group to order every Wednesday morning at The Annex on 8122 Big Bend Blvd.

“I try to gavel them to order, but I don’t get much respect,” admitted Dunsford. “Castor beaners are rowdy. They don’t take me seriously and they are a little wound up right now.”

WGCBS members are wound up because they’re in the heat of competition for growing the tallest castor bean plant. The stakes are high, the plants are tall – and the winner takes all. The owner of the tallest plant wins bigly.

“Tom Bush of Glendale is my ‘Chart Meister,’ and records the height of contest plants on a weekly basis,” explained Dunsford. “Members call in their heights to him and he records them.

“I don’t trust their reports,” added Dunsford. “I ride my bike all over Webster-Kirkwood with a tape measure and stop at their homes to check their castor bean plants. I do my own measurements. It’s called ‘keeping them honest.’”

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Kayak the Meramec River on Aug. 11

Join park naturalists for a guided interpretive kayak trip on the Meramec River from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11. Participants will learn about the diversity of life found in and along the Meramec River.

The trip begins and ends at Robertsville State Park. Participants must be at least 18 years of age and have previous experience paddling a kayak on moving water. Preregistration is required and there is a fee of $20 per person. To reserve your spot, call Erik Otto at 636-257-3788. Participants with reservations will receive trip logistics.

Robertsville State Park is located eight miles east of I-44 on Route O, near Roberstville. For more information, call 636-257-3788.

For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.


Discover Nature Schools Nature Unhooked Teacher Training Workshop Aug. 20

Photo: MDC

Teachers will learn about this free program that provides grant funding for middle school science units.

The Missouri Department of Conservation invites teachers to attend a Discover Nature Schools (DNS) teacher training workshop for Nature Unhooked, the DNS aquatic instructional unit designed for grades 6-8.  This program provides grant funding for middle school life science units to help cover equipment costs and field trips.

The workshop will be held Saturday, Aug. 20 from 8:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center in Kirkwood.  The workshop is free of charge for educators.  Registration is required. (see link and more information at end of this post.) The nature center is located at 11715 Cragwold Road, near the intersection of I-270 and I-44.

“The Discover Nature Schools program is an excellent way to connect students of all ages with the benefits of outdoor learning and provides a place-based, experiential, approach to science education focusing on Missouri plants, animals and natural systems,” said MDC Conservation Educator David Bruns.

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$1.1 Million Awarded to Improve Outdoor Recreation

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has selected five Missouri cities to receive a total of $1.1 million in Land and Water Conservation Fund grants to improve public outdoor recreation areas.

“As an agency, we are continually focused on improving the quality of life for Missourians,” said Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director Dru Buntin. “Communities can accomplish this with the financial assistance of these grants. We also hope to build long-lasting partnerships with these communities.”

“These grants provide much-needed park improvements to cities that might not be able to afford them otherwise,” said Missouri State Parks Director David Kelly. “From upgrading and improving swimming facilities to installing new playground equipment, the towns and cities will be improving their outdoor recreation opportunities for their citizens and visitors.”

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Crayfish Critters: Memories Past, Present-Day Concerns

All photos courtesy The Missouri Department of Conservation.

By Don Corrigan

Crayfish, the “poor man’s lobsters,” were once in abundance in streams of Webster-Kirkwood in suburban St. Louis. Watersheds at Gravois Creek, Sugar Creek, Deer Creek and Shady Creek hosted many of the six-legged fellows.

When freed slaves settled areas near the creeks in North Webster Groves after the Civil War, the streams provided drinking water, recreation and food sources for the liberated residents.

A crayfish boil with melted butter could offer a kingly meal. Vegetable gardens in family plots provided plenty of side dishes to go along with the “crawdaddies” harvested by young boys.

Crayfish boils – and local streams full of the tiny “lobsters,” – seem to be a thing of the past. Experts with the Webster Groves Nature Study Society and Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) have an explanation for the disappearance.

“Crayfish suffer in suburban areas because of the runoff from herbicides and the pesticides used on lawns,” said Rich Thoma of the local nature society. “Some species are very sensitive to degradations in their habitat.

“When the crayfish suffer, sometimes other species of dragonflies and frogs take a hit also,” explained Thoma. “That’s because the crayfish burrow into the mud to make their homes, and other creatures then use the burrows for their homes.”

When crayfish disappear, the burrow homes for the dragonflies and frogs disappear. It’s a classic case of ecological breakdown.

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Go Stargazing Ha Ha Tonka State Park on July 29

Have you ever gazed at the night skies and wondered what exactly you were seeing? Are those glistening objects stars, planets, satellites or something else? Join team members for an evening of stargazing at Ha Ha Tonka State Park at 9:30 p.m. Friday, July 29, weather permitting.

Participants will be able to view the night skies through at telescope. There will be a new moon, allowing the best opportunity to view more distant and faint objects. With any luck, the Delta Aquarids meteor shower may be seen as well.

The program will be held at the Post Office Shelter. To get to there from Highway 54, turn onto State Road D and continue approximately 2.3 miles. The Post Office Shelter is on the left. Ha Ha Tonka State Park is located at 1491 State Road D in Camdenton. For more information about the program, contact 573-346-2986..

For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Did You Know? Spotlight on the St. Louis Audubon Society

Explore your St. Louis environmentally and nature friendly organizations! 

The St. Louis Audubon Society offers a program to help homeowners support native plant and animal landscapes across the St. Louis region, including even the smallest urban yard.

“The Bring Conservation Home Program provides on-site advice to private landowners in the greater St. Louis area for the restoration of native plant and animal habitat on their grounds.”

The program website describes the following program examples.
The Bring Conservation Home Program will offer advice in:

  • Landscaping with environmentally healthy and sustainable native plant species
  • Removal of invasive plant species, such as bush honeysuckle
  • Water conservation for urban landscapes
  • Other stewardship practices to promote healthy habitat for birds, native wildlife, and people

To learn more about the “Bring Conservation Home Program” and how to become involved – CLICK HERE.


Trail Blazers – A Book About the Making of the Katy Trail and the Free-Spirited, Extraordinary Lives of Ted and Pat Jones

Courtesy of Magnificent Missouri

by Don Corrigan
Trail Blazers: The Free-Spirited and Extraordinary Lives of Ted and Pat Jones tells the story of the philanthropy and business savvy of an incredible couple. They also left an incredible natural legacy for Missourians.

I recommend reading this book from finish to start. That’s because once you realize the extent of what they have given us in Missouri (which is cataloged at the end of the book), then you will be more motivated to read how it all happened earlier in the book.

So, what did Ted and Pat Jones give us:

• A 240-mile long Katy Trail that attracts 400,000 hikers and cyclists annually. The beauty of this trail – whether in wine country, or the forests near Boonville, or the river cliffs of Rocheport – is simply astounding.

• Prairie Fork, the fabulous Jones Farm north of the Missouri River. The acreage has prairie, wetlands, slightly forested woodlands edged with beautiful wildflowers. Three different ecosystems can be enjoyed.

• The Ted and Pat Jones Confluence Point State Park, where visitors can witness where the Mississippi and Missouri rivers meet, and where westward expansion in the United States began.

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Explore the Green STL!

Photo by Holly Shanks

Looking for a fun way to experience the “Green” areas in St. Louis?  Check out the tour itineraries from Explore St. Louis!

Garden Tour itinerary – Find your “green” in St. Louis’ family fun tour of the gardens and revered parks! CLICK HERE.

Environmentally Friendly itinerary – Celebrate St. Louis’ green and environmentally friendly attractions!  CLICK HERE.


Seed St. Louis and the St. Louis County Library Host Virtual Tree Pruning Class

Class presented by Seed St. Louis:
Some fruiting plants benefit from pruning in the summer time. Sign up for a virtual class to learn how to manage and maintain these summertime fruiting plants to help produce yummy yields for years to come.

This class is for adults and registration is required. Participants will receive Zoom information via email immediately after registering.  A recording of the virtual program will be posted to YouTube within three business days.

To register CLICK HERE.