It’s the first time this has been done and a lot of eyes are watching.
A unique collaborative effort by Victor J. Andrew High School (VJA) AP Environmental Science students, Illinois Master Naturalists (ILMNs), Orland Grassland Volunteers (OGVs), and the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) launched a pilot project to set up a shrub nursery at Orland Grassland from shrubs propagated on site.
With expansive prairie views, hilly, open Orland Grassland is a 960-acre wild destination for nature lovers. The area was once farmland, but since 2002 has been undergoing loving restoration as a grassland complex with prairie, wetlands, open ponds, oak savannas, shrublands, and woodlands.
The shrub project began when Laura Kirby, an AP Environmental Science teacher at VJA, contacted Pat Hayes, Orland Grassland Site Steward, asking if there was a project her students could do. Almost at the same time, Annette Pletcher, OGV and ILMN, came to Pat and asked if there was a project the ILMNs could do at Orland Grassland. Hmmm. Shrub propagation?
Enter Brigit Anne Holt, the Extension Program Coordinator, Master Naturalist, University of Illinois Extension. The question was posed: “Is it possible to take cuttings of our native American plum and hazelnut shrubs, and possibly others when timely, so that the VJA students can plant them?” The answer: “Yes, what a great project.”
After much preparation and help from many parties, “Propagation Day” was May 5, 2016.
Laura and six students arrived and between 8:30 and 1:00, 16 American plum branch cuttings and 9 American hazelnut root shoots were planted, watered with a root stimulator, caged, and staked. An additional 15 cages were staked but are empty in hopes of bringing in other shrubs as they become available.
The project culminated with a beautiful day to be on the prairie and a delicious pizza lunch provided by Brigit. It rained two days later and has kept on raining since. It was also reported by an Orland Grassland volunteer later that day that a young deer tentatively came out of the wooded area directly south to check it out. Whew. Good things those cages were set.
After some rainy days and some intermittent watering by the volunteers, the shrubs are very promising overall. Two of the hazelnuts are amazingly vibrant, while two others seem to be gone (you never know), and the other five are still leafed out and green. The plums are all doing great.
A lot of great collaboration has launched an amazing coming together of community, education and restoration for Orland Grassland. This is a first of its kind in the FPCC. For more details and the latest photos, plus links to much more on Orland Grassland, click here.
—Pat Hayes, Site Steward, Orland Grassland, FPCC
Editor’s note: There is a lot of ongoing shrub restoration in the Chicago area. Page 4 of this newsletter from 2014 discussed some of what was planned for Bartel North, Ronan Park, Miami Woods, and Linne Prairie. We may update this at a later time, but for the time being, if you are involved in any of these sites (or others), we’d love to hear from you.