Tom's Blog

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Evidences of former oak savannas

Since I am so heavily involved in oak savanna restoration, I am always on the lookout for sites that are potentially restorable. The best such sites are those with large open-grown oaks. Most sites of this sort are now heavily degraded, but one can often see the "good" oaks somewhat hidden among the invasive brush or trees.

After we cleared the East Basin (see other post), I was able to look into my neighbor's land for the first time and saw several quite nice open-grown bur oaks, surrounded by honeysuckle and other invasive brush and trees. In the forestry literature, such lone trees are sometimes called "wolf trees" and are evidence of an earlier more open forest situation.

I'm not surprised that my neighbors have a potential savanna, since their property is similar to ours in climate, topography, soils, and exposure. Indeed, there are many potential oak savannas in the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin. Once you know what to look for, you see them everywhere. This time of year is especially favorable for spotting bur oak savannas, as the leaves have changed color and stand out, especially when blowing in the wind (the underside of a bur oak leaf is light in color). Indeed, almost every ridge top in southwestern Wisconsin has a restorable savanna!


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