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OAKS OF WOLF ROAD PRAIRIE - Vignette
Fall colors were peaking when Phyllis Mertz, Education Department, The Morton Arboretum, greeted about 20 trekkers who came out for the Oaks of Wolf Road Prairie walk.
As the group gathered in the savanna, Phyllis identified bur oak, red oak and shagbark hickory trees. One of these was the vintage pre-settlement bur oak believed to be about 200 years old. Acorns and oak leaves were passed around. Phyllis showed trekkers how to identify red oak leaves by their pointy tips and bur oak leaves by their rounded tips.
The sun drenched prairie stretched ahead as the group left the shaded savanna. The temperature was noticeably warmer, the plants were taller and the tawny colors and textures of the grassland contrasted starkly with the greenish hues of the dappled savanna understory.
Northern Dropseed, Indian Grass and Big Bluestem (three of the foundation grasses at Wolf Road Prairie) and Great St. John's Wort and Wild Quinine were in seed, along with other late blooming forbs (flowering prairie plants).
Phyllis held up a dried Prairie Dock leaf. Pioneer women used these leaves to scrub pots because their texture was so rough.
A highlight of the walk was the sighting of a sapphire blue Prairie Gentian.
As the afternoon drew to a close, hikers lingered to enjoy the prairie landscape on one of the last warm days of the season. A buckeye butterfly feasted on a morsel of nectar and then flitted from view.
Photos by Dave Waycie
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