Monday, April 21, 2014

Annual Daffodil Dig Day


Members of the Greater St. Louis Daffodil Society had a rather unique event scheduled on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.  While many seasoned members have experienced this dig, our club has many new members and we would like to encourage them to attend.  Further explanation about this opportunity  follows:

“The Missouri Botanical Garden’s land purchase in 1925 began the legacy of Shaw Nature Reserve. Originally set up as a safe refuge for the plant collection from the city’s smoke pollution of the 1920’s, its role in the community has evolved through the years. Shaw Nature Reserve has many roles—as a nature reserve, a place to walk and hike, and a good spot for relaxing and for studying nature. It has become a premier educational, research and habitat restoration and reconstruction site.

Over the years, tens of thousands of school children and adults have learned more about nature and the environment by observation and through the guidance of Shaw Nature Reserve’s educational and professional staff. Teachers themselves come to improve their teaching of ecological principles as well as to gain a greater appreciation of the natural world. In recognition of its worth as an educational resource, the Reserve was designated a National Environmental Education Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1972.

St. Louis is one of very few metropolitan regions that can boast of a 2,441-acre natural asset such as Shaw Nature Reserve so near its city-based parent organization, the world-famous Missouri Botanical Garden.

Through ecological restoration, the Shaw Nature Reserve is re-establishing and maintaining native biological diversity. Protected natural areas today are small and scattered compared to the land area occupied by natural ecosystems in the past. Natural processes and disturbances which once maintained biodiversity — climate, wildfire, animal migrations, burrowing, grazing, etc. —  now function differently than did in the past. In addition, importation of invasive species and many other human activities have replaced natural ecosystems with biologically impoverished "human-made habitats."

Shaw Nature Reserve strives to restore or create habitats for as many Missouri native species of flora and fauna as possible. Management practices are undertaken with the ecological aim of creating self-sustaining healthy populations of native species, while taking into account educational, interpretive and aesthetic considerations.”

But what about the daffodils, you ask?


“There are likely millions of daffodils blooming around the Shaw Nature Reserve's Pinetum Lake and the one-mile road encircling it beginning in late March/early April each year, and beyond into the Reserve.  Many varieties of Narcissus have been accumulating around the Pinetum Lake for the biggest part of the 88 years the Reserve has been in existence.

Daffodils got their start at the Nature Reserve through the efforts of Mr. John Rowe who lived and farmed close to the town of Pacific, Missouri. He was an amateur propagator of daffodils as well as of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and other flowering bulbs. Mr. Howe brought a bushel of daffodil bulbs to the Reserve to share during its fledgling years when the earliest planting was being done. Upon seeing Mr. Rowe's basket of bulbs, Dr. Edgar Anderson, then Curator of Useful Plants at Missouri Botanical Garden, wanted to know who produced these masterpieces of horticulture.

Dr. Anderson had the bulbs planted around Pinetum Lake where they are still the core of the naturalized bulb plantings at Shaw Nature Reserve. Although John Howe was an amateur gardener without formal horticultural training, learned gardeners, botanists, and directors of famous botanical institutions contacted him to see his collections and to ask his advice.

Dr. Anderson was especially fond of daffodils and devoted much time and energy to both the Botanical Garden's and the Shaw Nature Reserve's collections. Fortunately he had plenty of narcissi or daffodils to work with. At regular intervals after Mr. Howe's bulbs were first put in place, hundreds of additional varieties from the newest to the classic standards of the day were planted. The plantings were carefully studied, especially during the period 1938 and 1942. The goal was to have a continuous display of color lasting for a full two months using a mixture of early to late blooming varieties.”

In recent years, Shaw Nature Reserve has entered a partnership the Missouri Department of Conservation to begin restoring native prairies.  Part of this process includes controlled burns, which brings back the seed bank still there.  The goal is to return the habitat to the original, pre-European landscapes of native plants.  Being that daffodils are introduced plants into the North American flora, all daffodils beyond the Pinetum area need to be removed.  This benefits not only the prairie restorations, but also our ability to acquire rare, unique, and lovely daffodils for our own gardens.

Lucky for us, we not only are adept at digging daffodils, we also have Jason Delaney of MOBOT.  This allows us special access one time a year to rescue as many daffodils as we wish within our designated digging zones.  Members are encouraged to dig, share, and enjoy as many as you can.  We like to think of it as a “daffodil dig party/social event”, and has become one of the favorite events of the year!!!!!

 Compiled by Jason Delaney & Cindy Haeffner

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