Joey Santore

Joey Santore and Tony Santoro[1] (born 1982/1983)[2] are the Internet aliases of an American amateur naturalist who runs the YouTube channel Crime Pays But Botany Doesn't. He is known for his "Bill Swerski-esque" Chicago accent and his frequent use of profanity when discussing plant species.[2]

Early life and educationEdit

Born to an elementary school teacher mother and a father who left his family when Santore was one year old, he took his last name from his grandmother who was an immigrant from Italy.[3] He was raised in La Grange, Illinois and spent his childhood in Chicago[4] where he showed an interest in science from a young age, frequenting the Field Museum and growing trees in the family backyard. He attended and was subsequently kicked out of military school as a teenager and became involved in the punk scene.

He spent the next three years traveling across the United States by freight train, eventually attending Pima Community College, where an astronomy textbook reignited his interest in the sciences. Subsequently in 2006, he signed up for some classes at a San Francisco community college, but left after a semester in order to focus on his "nonacademic" pastime of plant ecology with an additional geology focus.[5][3]


Santore began working as a freight train driver for Union Pacific in 2006 while conducting trips to record native plants species in the local area as well as on international trips.[3] A video he made on August 15, 2019, involving helping a sick coyote pup went viral and received over 8 million views.[6]

On the channel Crime Pays But Botany Doesn't, Santore's videos focus on a self-described "lowbrow approach to plant ecology" that facilitates his traveling to various environments, which he records in photos, videos, and a podcast. He also creates hand-drawn stickers of flowers to sell online. Since the success of his channel, he stopped working as a driver in order to travel internationally full-time as an amateur ecologist,[5] officially quitting in 2019.[3]

In late 2022, Santore began a partnership with the company Swamp Fly in order to produce a television series named Kill Your Lawn, which is about replacing grass lawns with native plants.[7][8]

In May 2023, Santore recorded a viral video of a snapping turtle sunning itself on a rusted chain in the Chicago River. In the video Santore’s friend, Al Scorch, named the animal "Chonkosaurus". The video demonstrated the great improvement in the health of the river which only decades before was heavily polluted.[9][10]

Ecological tripsEdit

In 2017, Santore traveled to Texas and explored the plants in the region around Big Bend and the Buda Formation. He returned to the state in 2019 to observe the Catahoula Formation region and the land near the Rio Grande.[11]

Personal lifeEdit

Santore lives in Oakland, California.[1]


  • — (May 10, 2022). Crime Pays But Art Doesn't. Pacific Street Publishing. p. 143. ISBN 9780999896075.


  1. ^ a b Metz, Nina (August 20, 2019). "In search of man who tried to aid coyote pup". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on March 31, 2023. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  2. ^ a b Moore, Taylor (August 20, 2019). "Meet the "Misanthropic Chicago Italian" Who Charmed Twitter". Chicago. Archived from the original on March 6, 2023. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d Will, Jesse (March 15, 2022). "Meet Botany's Badass, Shit-Talking Star". Outside. Archived from the original on February 3, 2023. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  4. ^ Garcia, Evan (August 8, 2019). "Meet the YouTube Botanist with a Thick Chicago Accent and Foul Mouth". WTTW. Archived from the original on March 31, 2023. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  5. ^ a b Langellier, Robert (July 11, 2022). "Meet A West Oakland YouTube Celebrity Who Brings Plants and People Together". Bay Nature. Archived from the original on April 10, 2023. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  6. ^ McCluskey, Megan (August 22, 2019). "'It Just Kind of Struck Me.' The Thick Chicago Accent Guy Addresses the Sad Fate of the Coyote Pup From the Video". Time. Archived from the original on March 31, 2023. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  7. ^ Richardson, Maggie Heyn (October 18, 2022). "Local Landscaping Business Turns To Native Plants In Response To The 'Kill Your Lawn' Trend". 225 Magazine. Archived from the original on April 15, 2023. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  8. ^ Berniard, Jabez (July 25, 2022). "'Kill Your Lawn' seeks Louisiana homeowners willing to switch to native plants in their yards". NOLA. Archived from the original on April 15, 2023. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  9. ^ "'Chonkosaurus,' plump Chicago snapping turtle captured on video, goes viral". May 12, 2023.
  10. ^ Medina, Eduardo (May 14, 2023). "Meet 'Chonkosaurus,' the Thick Snapping Turtle Stealing Hearts". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 18, 2023. Retrieved May 19, 2023.
  11. ^ Nelson, Kelly (June 20, 2019). "Before Going Viral, Crass and Thick-Accented Chicago Botanist Gave Texas the Scientific Treatment". San Antonio Current. Archived from the original on April 9, 2023. Retrieved April 8, 2023.

External linksEdit