Tom's Blog

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Midwest Oak Savanna Conference (Ohio)

This past week Kathie and I and Rich Henderson attended the Midwest Oak Savanna Conference that was held in the "Oak Openings" region of northwestern Ohio (near Toledo). This region is probably the farthest east in the U.S. with a complete functioning oak savanna. It owes its existence to the unique geological conditions of this area. As the last Wisconsin ice sheet retreated from this area (creating Lake Erie) it deposited sand bars and beaches on top of an impervious clay layer. On the dunes where sand is deep enough, arid conditions develop too harsh for forests but ideal for prairies and large spreading oaks. The flora is an outstanding array of prairie and savanna species. This is one of the easternmost areas of the so-called "prairie peninsula" that is so much more common farther west.

Many organizations and groups are involved in protecting and restoring the Oak Openings region, including the Toledo Metroparks System, the Ohio Natural Areas System, the Nature Conservancy, the Ohio State Forests, several county conservation districts, and numerous private groups and individuals. The Oak Openings Region Conservancy and the Green Ribbon Initiative were the prime movers for the conference, which is the first oak savanna conference since the one held in Madison, Wisconsin in 1997.

The field trips were the outstanding event of the conference. The one we attended visited the Kitty Todd Nature Preserve of the Nature Conservancy. This >700 acre preserve contains the full spectrum of oak savannas and treeless wet prairies. (See photo above) Among other things, we saw numerous state-listed plant species, as well as an outstanding display of Platanthera ciliaris (the yellow-ringed orchid).

An excellent book on this region entitled "Living in the oak openings: A homeowners guide to one of the World's Last Great Places", has been published by the Nature Conservancy and can be obtained gratis from their field office at 10420 Old State Line Road, Swanton, OH 43558.


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