Heal from Nature Blindness

In an age where we know more corporations by their logos than trees by their leaves, it’s far time that we reconnect with nature!

dsc_8574aAre you nature blind?  Do you suffer from plant blindness.’  It seems that many people have difficulty perceiving plant life in greater detail than ‘grass,’ ‘flower,’ ‘bush,’ or ‘tree.’ Perhaps it’s because we are hard-wired to focus on fauna in a backdrop of flora.  Or, perhaps we’ve become caught up in urbanized society and disconnected from nature, especially plants. Either way, we should definitely make an effort to know more about plants. 

In today’s world, it’s too easy to ignore the great detail and diversity in the plant kingdom.  Our plant-based foods come pre-packaged and processed.  Our building materials come pre-chopped-down and pre-cut.  Our plant-based or plant-inspired medicines come in a pill.  Our landscape plants come pre-identified and propagated.  We aren’t really forced to deduce detail as a consumer.  We choose plants for curb appeal, going straight to the garden center for whatever is in color or on ad.  Great…but do you know what you bought?

We should definitely stop to consider plants in greater detail. John Muir, the father of our National Park system, found ‘botanizing’ and praising plants to be important. And furthermore, humanity has an inherent desire to connect with nature (see Living Walls and Biophilia). Next time you visit a park or assess your own landscape, consider exactly which plants lay at your feet and which trees tower above you.

Get yourself tree and plant identification guides, edible native plant books, plants for pollinators guides, and ask great questions! Kids are especially great at the latter.

Questions to get you started:

  • Are these vines invasive? (Maybe)
  • Will these flowers return next year?
  • Are these plants native? (Missouri’s Grow Native!)
  • Is that the right tree for the right place? (Arbor Day Foundation)
  • Will that shrub attract birds, bees, and butterflies? (Bringing Nature Home)
  • Can plants communicate with each other?  (Yes.)
  • Can plants become friends?  (Yes.)
  • Is that a Northern Red Oak or a Black Oak? (Ask the Missouri Department of Conservation)
  • Is that a grass or a sedge?
  • What’s a sedge?
  • Is it OK for insects to eat my landscaping?
  • What is a companion plant?
  • Is that Mistletoe in my tree? What is the deal with that? (Many have asked)
  • How diverse is the flora in my backyard?
  • What plants are good for indoors? (NASA tested, lungs approved)

Get outside, get curious, and get detailed!  Nature will reward you with inspiration.

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Threshold of Consequence

…and somehow a snowball disproves our impact on a global scale. Riiiight.

stewardsofearth

To some, it seems incomprehensible that 7 billion people can have lasting influence on our planet, inducing harmful changes to our environment.  Climate change cannot exist, say some folks.  

Humans have an impact on the environment.  I think most would agree.  But the argument that extends from this concept is the line, the threshold at which our species can impact parts or all of our world.  What is the threshold of our influence? How far does the impact of humankind extend?  At what level do we stop having an influence?  And what are the consequences of our evident influence?

One personcan affect one tree by topping it, inviting disease and early death. The pathogen spreads to nearby trees, plaguing the neighborhood. One person generates 4.4 lb of trash per day, which goes to a landfill.  If one person dumps in old batteries, old cleaners, plastics, construction material…

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Muir’s Biblical Reason for Praising Plants

Botany and Taxonomy: If we understand what we have, we understand what can be lost forever.

stewardsofearth

On his 1,000 mile walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico, not long after the Civil War ended, John Muir encountered a man who questioned his motive to study plants, or ‘botanize’ as he often put it.

The man said, “You look like a strong-minded man, and surely you are able to do something better than wander the country and look at weeds and blossoms.  These are hard times, and real work is required of every man that is able.  Picking up blossoms doesn’t seem to be a man’s work at all in any kind of times.”

John Muir asked, ” You are a believer in the Bible, are you not?”  The man replied, “Oh, yes.”

Muir then responded, “Well, you know Solomon was a strong-minded man, and he is generally believed to have been the very wisest man the world ever saw, and yet he considered it was…

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Nature and Beauty are Bread for the Soul

Nature Beauty Bread“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir

Photo taken a few days ago in Castlewood State Park in Ballwin, Missouri.  Get out and enjoy Autumn before the wind and cold sweep away all the color!

Creeping into Autumn

Virginia Creeper Turning

I took this picture a couple weeks ago as the local Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) population began changing into its vibrant red garb.  Thank you, Nature!!!

Virginia Creeper often gets mistaken for Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), but is 5-leaved, whereas the Poison Ivy is 3-leaved.  Both are native to this area, but I’d highly recommend Virginia Creeper for your garden or natural landscaping.

Just make sure not to landscape with Poison Ivy, unless you’re itching to repel your neighbors…  Ha!

Up with Green Roofs! It is time, St. Louis.

I had the pleasure of attending a Green Roof Design and Installation workshop last week in Nashville, Tennessee.  This course is for those interested in the green roof industry and Green Roof Professional accreditation.  It was a real treat to have Steven Peck, Founder and President of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, as our instructor.  We were also lucky enough to tour a 4-acre green roof at the Nashville Music City Center!

Nashville Music City Center Green Roof

Although I’m no architect, landscape architect, or engineer, I have a special interest in the living architecture industry.  In fact, I hope to get involved with green roof and living wall projects in the Midwest, and I can’t wait for cities like St. Louis and Kansas City to adopt living architecture incentive programs.  So many cities in North America already have green roof policiesNashville, Tennessee, offers a $10 per square foot incentive for green roofs, which is EXCELLENT considering green roofs can cost $11-50 per square foot!

Both KC and STL have environmental problems associated with urbanization, including major stormwater control problems, and Kansas City has one of the worst Urban Heat Islands  in the country! (About Urban Heat Islands.)  The impacts of climate change may amplify environmental problems already present in these cities.

A green roof policy would incentivize the implementation of green roofs, living walls, and other sustainable green infrastructure.  Why?  A few reasons:

  • Mitigate urban stormwater problemsNative Green Roof at Shaw Nature Reserve
  • Alleviate urban heat island effect
  • Reduce energy costs
  • Mitigate air, water, and soil pollution
  • Increase urban biodiversity (plants, insects, birds, etc.)
  • Beautify the urban jungle
  • Augment urban food production
  • Create green amenities for private consumers
  • Create park space for the general public

The St. Louis region already has green roofs at places like NGRREC in Alton, the St. Louis Zoo, Shaw Nature Reserve, SIUE, Webster University, Washington University in St Louis, Shaw Nature Reserve, just to name a few.

Now, I believe that many companies, organizations, non-profits, and regional government entities already support the concept of green roofs.  Here is a short list of folks I believe would/could/should support and benefit from a St. Louis Metro Green Roof Policy:

I’m sure there are more!!  Let’s go, St. Louis.  It’s time to make St. Louis a more sustainable, healthy, and verdant city!

Green Roof Tour

About me:  I am a LEED Green Associate, and have an M.S. of Environmental Sciences from SIU Edwardsville.  I’ve conducted research on green roofs and living retaining walls during my graduate work at SIUE.  I have also created artistic plant designs and assisted with installations for living wall projects (Pics in My LinkedIn).  I’m currently looking for career opportunities in the region.

Bring back Wildflowers, Bring back Monarchs!

Orange, Black, White. In flight.Monarch on a Thistle
Delicate beauty. Glorious sight.
Please don’t disappear!

Picky young eater.
So no Milkweed, no Monarchs!
Grow native, save lives.

Learn more:

Seek Nature, Receive More

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  ~John Muir

Walk With Nature

Step away from the city-scape, seek the amazing craftsmanship of God.  The natural sights far surpass the city blight. 

Took this photo last autumn at an outlook in Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois.

Muir Never Saw a Discontented Tree

“I never saw a discontented tree.  They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.”  ~John Muir

Tree Philosophy

Took this photo last fall at Pere Marquette State Park, near Grafton, IL.  What a wonderful evening trek it was.

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