As yesterday was such a beautiful day, I decided to take advantage of the cool temps and beautiful, sunny day to visit Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. Given that the first time I lived in Chicago I didn’t own a car, while economical, I never got to explore much outside of the city. It’s been a real treat this second time around, checking out spots that I’ve always wanted to visit.
While I love photographing strategically planted flowers in beautiful botanical gardens, one of the things I love most about Illinois are the vast stretches of prairie land with it’s wildflowers, thistle and amazing fauna such as the butterflies and dragonflies that I came across. Of course, a note- if you are going to traverse the prairies of Chicago, or any prairies for that matter, don’t wear flip flops (especially if you’re like me and can trip standing still) and don’t think you’re above bug spray. (as I sit here with two large welts on my forehead, as well as all over my arms, from the feeding frenzy that occurred just as soon as I started out on the journey)
One of the things I find most interesting about prairie land is the fact that they are maintained through a prescription of controlled burns mimicking the natural burns that helped restore the prairie lands in pre-settlement days. When the land was eventually settled, these natural fires, which occurred because of lightening strikes, intense sun, any number of reasons, were subdued for safety reasons, however, that meant non-native plants could encroach upon the land which reduced natural, native germination and renewal.This also brings non-native animals, etc, until the land is inhospitable to it’s original inhabitants.
With controlled burns, seeds encased in fire resistant pods had the chance to germinate in the ash enriched soil. The prairie plants themselves have roots that go down more than 15 feet to tap in to the water well beneath the surface, thus protecting them not only from the scorching sun but also protecting the roots themselves from the controlled burns. They’re then allowed to re-grow because the growth nodes not only adapted to the fires but were also underground.
The fires are also burned at selective times during the year. For example, when the shoots of a non-native plant are expected to grow before those of the native prairie plants, the burn will take care of removing them because the non-native plants haven’t adapted to the controlled burns and are eliminated. The prairies regrow and replenish unchecked and all is right with the ecosystem.
*tracey* (certified geek)