Shaw Bottomland Forest
Points of Interest:
- See what the Meramec River floodplain might have looked like to early explorers.
- Walk among giant bottomland forest trees.
- Look for a number of bottomland forest and riparian area bird species.
Natural Features Description: In the early 19th century much of the floodplain of the middle and lower Meramec River was blanketed in forests like these. Today much of this highly fertile land has been cleared for agricultural purposes. Here you can wander through a lush and dense bottomland forest with sycamores reaching 100+ feet into the sky. Sycamore and bitternut hickory dominate the canopy but many other tree species occur: bur oak, swamp white oak, pin oak, Shumard’s oak, northern red oak, river birch, shellbark hickory, box elder, sugar maple, hackberry, and silver maple. In the spring the welcome blooms of Virginia bluebells grace the forest floor.
The forest’s mid-story is heavy to pawpaw. Look for the ripe fruits in the fall. In the spring keep your eyes and ears open for a variety of songbirds. High in the sycamores you might spot a yellow-throated warbler. In the mid-story the American redstart and wood thrush may be heard or seen. The rare cerulean warbler has also been noted from this area.
The Meramec River is important for a variety of reasons, including its role as a reservoir of aquatic biological diversity. It supports 31 species of global conservation significance, including several species found nowhere else on earth. Intact riparian corridors such as the one here at Shaw Nature Reserve provide models for floodplain restoration efforts elsewhere in the Meramec River basin.
This natural area is within Shaw Nature Reserve (part of the Missouri Botanical Garden). Visitors to Shaw Nature Reserve and the natural area must pay a modest fee to access this area. Shaw Nature Reserve is located just south of Interstate 44 at exit 253 (Gray Summit) where Highway 100 and the interstate cross. At the entrance, stop at the visitor’s center for information on the natural area.