The oak tree – It’s the iconic symbol of the prairie landscape, the stately cornerstone of our region’s woodlands. And after an official proclamation from the Illinois governor’s office, the oak is finally getting its moment…or month…to shine. Happy Oaktober, everyone!
If you’ve ever stood under the cathedral of an oak tree’s branches, especially in fall, you understand how the many varieties of native Illinois oak trees inspire awe and wonder. A symbol of strength, a specimen oak tree can practically jump out of the landscape as you drive or round the bend on a hike, and take your breath away with its stature and exquisite beauty. In fact, the white oak is the state tree of Illinois.
But more than a source of inspiration and the foundation of lofty dreams, oaks play vital roles in the health of our local landscapes. All that glorious height and those shapely leaves clean our air and water, reduce flooding, provide essential habitat for wildlife, and in many cases serve as a central gathering place for our families and our communities.
The Chicago Region Trees Initiative, who named The Conservation Foundation’s Conservation@Home program “Most Sustainable Tree Program” earlier this summer, is promoting October as Oak Awareness Month, or Oaktober.
Here are some ways you, your family, your schools and communities can observe and celebrate the month of Oaktober and the grand ol’ oak and help us highlight the need to get more oaks on our landscape:
· Plant an oak tree…or 10!!
· Hold or participate in an Oak Workday to remove invasive species; or plant, water, and mulch oak trees.
· Take a walk with friends and family through an oak woodland. Find an awesome oak, stand beneath its sheltering branches, look up, and feel its power and its presence. Repeat often!
· Collect acorns and plant them in pots to plant outside later. Great little tip from the local University of Illinois Extension agent: viable acorns will sink in water, while nonviable acorns will float. (While they might not be able to grow an oak tree, the floaters make a lovely table decoration).
· Find your community’s largest oak tree.
Other ideas to celebrate Oaktober can be found at the Chicago Region Trees Initiative website at chicagorti.org/resources/oaktober-oak-awareness-month
If you want to learn more about the native varieties of oak trees, we love Possibility Place Nursery’s Plant Finder. Click here (scroll down to the Quercus section).
By Jill Johnson