This problem of smoke pollution from coal burning was global in the 1920s, effecting major industrial cities around the world. In London, Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanic Garden of England, had purchased a large tract of land outside the city to move much of their collection away from the smoke. In 1923, the Trustees of the Missouri Botanical Garden agreed that the same measure was required in St. Louis. The Garden actually sold off fifty acres of its St. Louis site for residential development, in order to fund the purchase of a larger tract of land in the country.
After looking at several sites, the Trustees settled on a tract of land along the Meremac River near Gray Summit, Missouri. The area had been a farm for many years, but it was located in an area of rolling hills where there were still many woodlands. More importantly, the site was some thirty-five miles away from St. Louis, far enough to save the plant collections from the disastrous results of the deadly polluted rainfall. It also contained the Joseph H. Bascom Manor House, an elegant brick mansion, which was built in 1879. Today this building contains educational exhibits.
The Trustees called this area the Missouri Botanical Garden Arboretum, but it was always more than just an arboretum. An arboretum is a collection of tree species, and this tract certainly contained that. But it also contained fields of wildflowers and various gardens. Most importantly, it was the location of several large, state-of-the-art greenhouses, which housed the Gardenís orchid collections. The orchid collection was moved to the Arboretum (now the Nature Reserve) in 1926. This priceless collection was not only the best in the country, but one of the best in the world. Here, miles from the city, it was finally safe. Today, the site includes nature trails, education buildings, a native prairie and wetland area, and much more. In 2000, it was renamed the Shaw Nature Reserve, a name more fitting the diverse and varied activities on this now 2,500 acres tract.