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Savanna Spring Tour at Wolf Road Prairie
Tour leader, Greg Jerzyk, volunteer
May 17, 2015


PHoto by Valerie Spale

The tour group gathered at the 31st Street kiosk to begin their Savanna Spring tour at Wolf Road Prairie. Greg presented information about the rarity and history of the site and talked about the vintage Mother Oak at the savanna edge, believed to be about 250 years old. Native peoples would still have lived in northeastern Illinois at the time the oak germinated and began to stretch into a sapling.

Flyers were passed out to guests featuring color photos of Woodland Spring Flora of the Chicago Region provided by the Field Museum, Division of Environment, Culture and Conservation, produced by John and Jane Balaban, North Branch Prairie Project.


Photo by Greg Jerzyk

The savanna at Wolf Road Prairie is recognized as one of the rarest ecosystems in Cook County, Illinois and beyond. Located north of 31st Street just west of Wolf Road, the savanna is the gateway to the Wolf Road Prairie Nature Preserve. Visitors park in the inlets off 31st Street for easy access. From here, they can traverse the Depression sidewalks installed in the south 40 acres in the l920's when Wolf Road Prairie was proposed for a housing development and store front businesses.

Today, visitors enjoy the historic oaks, hickories, sedges and wildflowers because the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources acquired the land for conservation.


Photo by Valerie Spale

The savanna is most spectacular around mid-May when spring ephemerals come into bloom. Wild hyacinths and geraniums carpet the savanna understory and other wildflowers, including shooting stars, violets, spring beauties, puccoons and prairie phlox populate the landscape with delicate pastels and dainty blossoms.


Photo by Laurel

This time of year is very popular with photographers and tourists who come to experience spring at one of the rarest natural areas in northeastern Illinois and to observe native plants, some which are considered rare, threatened and endangered, in their original habitat.

Greg then led the group beyond the shaded savanna and into the sun dappled prairie greening up with tender shoots and leaves of hardy prairie plants like compass plant, prairie dock, an array of grasses and fragile wildflowers.

Photo by Greg Jerzyk

Migrating birds returning north at this time find food among the leafing out trees. They can pause before traveling on or stay to look for mates and nesting sites.

The blooming cycle at the Wolf Road Prairie savanna only lasts a short time. It depends upon temperatures and rainfall. A warm spring is brief. A cooler spring keeps the blossoms vibrant a little longer.

Visiting Wolf Road Prairie in spring is a field trip tradition for many nature lovers spanning decades to the present day.

Photo by Laurel

For more information and photos featuring Wolf Road Prairie, check out links of interest on our website - www.saltcreekgreenwayassociation.org - listed on our front page.
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