About STLNS.org

Our Purpose

To provide opportunities for teachers to grow as naturalists so they can pass on their understandings and enthusiasms to their students.

Our History

The St. Louis Nature Students started life more than a century ago as the “St. Louis Nature Study Society“. Read about it. Good ideas never die.

Our Contribution to Science

Before any theatre performance, somebody has to aim the spotlights, build the scaffolding, and clean the toilets. That’s us. We’re the off-stage enablers – the ones tasked with finding the right stage-door keys so that everybody has a chance to perform. Through our “Spotter” series of field challenges and our perennial “Botany Walks for Teachers” we aim to give participants a visceral understanding of our natural world that can’t be learned from books.

St. Louis-centric

One way we try to make learning less overwhelming is by “St. Louisifying” everything. Parochialism is usually not a good thing, but it really helps here. Cutting-out the fat makes identification so much easier. For example, our magnificent 3-volume “Flora of Missouri” has 3,554 numbered pages. You almost need a forklift to carry them. But many of these 3,554 pages deal with plants growing way down in the bootheel or way up near the Nebraska and Iowa borders – plants that have never even dreamt of St. Louis. So, we’ve cut those faraway plants from this website.

At the other extreme there are plants that are swimming-distance from St. Louis but which aren’t included in most Missouri publications because they’re on the wrong side of a political border. So, we’ve added those Illinois plants to this website.

This practical, narrow focus on “St. Louis” doesn’t mean that plant identification will suddenly become easy. There are still hundreds of plants to learn. But it does make botanizing a bit less frustrating, a bit less overwhelming, and a bit more fun.

The botanical area that we call the “St. Louis Area” is made up of the 7 counties shown in the map below:

St. Louis Botanical Area (City + 7 Surrounding Counties)
Our definition of the St. Louis Botanical Area
(City + 7 Surrounding Counties).
Species must be found in 3 contiguous counties.

We largely determine which plants are true St. Louisans and which aren’t by studying the distribution maps generated on the BONAP (Biota of North America Program) website. Try it for yourself – it’s rather fun. But interpreting the maps is not so cut-and-dry. It takes some discretion. The goal is to pick truly established plants that are reasonably easy to find. Sometimes an isolated plant has been recorded in one or two counties but nowhere else. Maybe it had fallen off of a train or escaped from somebody’s garden. Those traveling entertainers don’t count as true St. Louis residents.

But we can’t rely on BONAP maps alone. Plants are always on the move, especially now with so much habitat destruction and climate change. Mr. Bonap can’t be expected to keep track of the whole country by himself with his little clipboard. We need local people to monitor our local area, protecting the plants that need protection and weeding-out the destructive ones. To accomplish this, we need a citizenry that knows which plant is which. And that’s why the “St. Louis Nature Students” exists.