Save the Earth. It’s an inspiring but daunting call to action. In a world where time and resources seem to be more scarce, it’s hard to think about what you can do to help. However, every small action has a ripple effect.
Plant More. Use Less. Go Outside.
Three small actions that can lead to big change. Three big ideas that get to the core of the Garden’s mission to discover and protect plants locally and around the world. But we can’t, and don’t want to, do it alone.
Nancy Hartman has lived in the Bellerive Acres neighborhood in North St. Louis County for many years. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that she learned more about how bush honeysuckle crowds out native plants and threatens biodiversity, particularly in the bird sanctuary right in her backyard. An educator and Garden member for many years, she knew her first stop in her new learning journey was the Garden. In 2016, she took Dr. Quinn Long’s “Invasive Plants in Your Yard” class at the Garden. After the rest of the class had left, Dr. Long was answering Nancy’s questions about what she could do to rid her neighborhood––and the larger region––of invasives. He pointed her to a wide range of organizations and resources, including the Nature Reserve’s Native Plant School, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
She found out that she could apply for a Missouri Department of Conservation grant to remove honeysuckle in the bird sanctuary. During that process, she connected with others who could help her, such as Native Landscape Solutions, who agreed to give her an estimate for her grant application, and Beyond Housing, whose Community Forester, Doug Seely, continues to be one of Nancy’s strongest allies.
Today, two years after being awarded the grant, Nancy has built a community of neighbors, local government officials, environmental professionals, and partners that tackles invasives and protect the bird sanctuary. “What really shocked me was that I went from a person being afraid of nature to being a person who loves nature,” she says.
As she fell in love with nature and protecting biodiversity, Nancy began to share that love with others. She volunteered helping other communities remove honeysuckle, including Olivette’s Weed Warriors, Operation Wild Lands in Maplewood, and Forest Park’s Honeysuckle Removal Day.
This summer, Nancy held her own volunteer event to remove honeysuckle in the Bellerive bird sanctuary, which borders the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus and Express Scripts. Nancy, along with several of her community partners and neighbors, welcomed more than 80 volunteers from Express Scripts with cookies, lemonade, garden gloves, saws, and clippers to clear hundreds of square feet of bush honeysuckle and other invasives. “I feel that I can be part of a community that’s working to make the world better,” she says. “I don’t have to know everything myself, and I don’t have to be able to do everything myself. But there are all these wonderful people in the community who will show me, teach me, and bring other people to help. We are doing something positive.”
Nancy’s next steps are to plant native grasses, shrubs, and trees for insects and birds to thrive in the sanctuary. She’s already explored more Garden programs to help her with that, including an ecological restoration tour of Shaw Nature Reserve, a class on single-stream recycling, and “The Art of Combining Native Perennials” course through the Native Plant School.
“I will go out there and hack that honeysuckle,” she says.“In fact, I love it. That’s what I do for fun. Other stuff bores me.”
Digital Media Intern
Celebrate Nancy’s story and more during a special Wild Ideas Worth Sharing evening event on Thursday, November 1 at 5:30 p.m. in the Shoenberg Auditorium at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Free and open to the public.