We worked with a group of 9 volunteers the other day to plant 120 oak trees. While taking a mid-morning donut break, folks were talking about whether or not we should be planting species other than native oaks because of climate change. The concern was that as the climate warms, the more northern species will not fare as well as species that are found further south.
I explained that the species of oak most commonly found in McHenry County – white, bur, red, black and scarlet (or Hill’s) – occur throughout the State of Illinois. That’s right, one can find these same species of trees in the southernmost part of the state with a climate more similar to southern Missouri than northern Illinois.
A couple of folks also mentioned the summer drought, wondering how we could possibly water the 2-4 year-old seedlings enough if there is a drought next year.
Frankly, we couldn’t, and we won’t. The oaks are on their own, as trees have been for millennia. I pointed to ten young oaks that were planted just two years ago, noting that they were all doing fine despite no additional water during the recent drought.
Just imagine, oaks were thriving on every continent except Antarctica long before humans were much more than food for larger animals. I’m guessing they have a few tricks up their genetic sleeves.
As we resumed digging and planting, I looked over at a nearby bur oak that was close to 300 years old. It grows on the fence line between the planting site and the adjoining farm field. That tree was growing in that same location before the Declaration of Independence was signed. That oak survived a series of droughts in the 1930s (known as the Dust Bowl years) and a severe drought from 1954-56.
We’ll keep planting oaks.
TLC's Fourth Annual “Art of the Land” Art Show and Benefit for The Land Conservancy of McHenry County will take place at the Starline Building in Harvard September 21-22, 2012. Since 2009, TLC has worked with area artists and amateur photographers to produce a celebration of the land and all it provides. The show features artists from throughout Northeastern Illinois, music, storytelling, original video and local food. For the second year, storyteller Jim May of Alden will produce a special “Voices of the Land” feature on the first night of the event.
Those interested in helping to plan the event, or who would like to volunteer at the event, are encouraged to contact TLC for more information on volunteer opportunities and the time and location of up-coming planning team meetings. Over 300 volunteer hours were donated last year by individuals who helped set up the space, install lighting, hang artwork, paint walls, serve food at the event, bartend and other similar jobs.
Finally, businesses are sought as sponsors for the event. Sponsors receive recognition in all advertising for the event, on the invitations, at the event itself, and through TLC’s website and newsletter. Please contact Cheryl at 815-337-9502 for details.
Saturday December 10th was the inaugural Oak Rescue at the future Gateway Park on the south side of Harvard near the intersection of Routes 14 & 23.
Thirty volunteers from throughout McHenry County donated over 90 hours on a cold morning to release about a dozen ancient oaks from the grips of invasive brush that had grown up around them in the last 20-30 years.
The 18 acre property is home to dozens of oaks that were growing on the property before the area was settled. These trees would have welcomed early settlers to town 165 or more years ago, and now will continue to welcome residents and visitors to Harvard forever.
Through a partnership between the City of Harvard and The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, Gateway Park will be preserved as a public nature park for hiking, relaxation and education.
The property includes several oak groves, with dozens of trees that were already large when the City was founded in 1856. Additionally, one of the only portions of Rush Creek that was never ditched runs through the center of the property, providing important habitat for a diversity of fish, including three that are listed as "species in greatest need of conservation" by the State of Illinois.
Future Oak Rescues are being planned. Contact The Land Conservancy for more information: 815-337-9502.