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Before and After: Freeing the Trees at Plum Creek Nature Center

In order to let the good things thrive, it's important to manage the landscape and remove those nasty invasive plants.

Now, thanks to a "Free the Tree" station at the recent "Snow Day Festival" at Plum Creek Nature Center, visitors got a firsthand experience in land management and were able to lend a helping hand in restoring the landscape. They also got a glimpse into what a difference only a few hours of work can make.

On this particular day, honeysuckle was the focus. Removal of this invasive plant is crucial for a number of reasons.

"This fast-growing shrub tends to take over the landscape by out competing native plants," said Judith Wallace, a Forest Preserve natural resource management crew leader. "It’s a very leafy shrub that casts dense shade on the surrounding area and prohibits sunlight from reaching the ground. As a result, native trees, shrubs and wildflowers have virtually nowhere suitable to grow and survive."

The area that was worked was adjacent to a large oak tree next to the nature center where honeysuckle was cleared the previous year. Wallace said she's hopeful the area can become a spot for some mini-walks to enjoy native wildflowers.

After the honeysuckle is removed, the canopy opens and some magical things can happen when sunlight is allowed to hit the ground.

"This provides habitat for seed germination, enabling regeneration of native ground flora and trees," Wallace said. "In the years to come, we can expect to see lots of young oaks and hickories, as well as native flowers."

Those native flowers should include woodland sunflower, purple milkweed, coneflowers and violets. 

"Since there will be much more plant diversity in that area, we can also expect to see more bees, butterflies, insects and birds," she said.

The "Free a Tree" activity not only provided an opportunity to introduce the public to restoration work and offer District staff some additional help, but it also to gave a short education lesson in the process.

"The adults I interacted with were very interested in finding out what we were cutting down and why," Wallace said. "The chance to explain the need for this type of work helps them see the 'bigger picture' and have a greater understanding of what natural resource management is all about."

Move the slider below on the interactive photo to see the difference a few hours made.

(Interactive feature may take a few seconds to load)


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