The forest floor offers many stories. It’s top layer is currently full of nuts, as yet uncovered soon to fall leaves. I do not recall such a nut proliferation in the twenty seven years I have witnessed these Preserves first-hand. My concern is real, knowing that when plants are stressed and in danger their defense is to make many seeds in an effort to ensure survival of their species. This knowledge also comforts me as I realize once again that nature’s abilities to endure are indeed amazing. This has been a year of extremes in the Chicago region. We have witnessed cycles of extreme heat and drought followed by extreme rains; each taking a toll on the plants’ root systems and wildlife. Trees seem to take longer to respond to weather extremes, but the abundance of acorn and other nuts tell me that their roots have been unable to provide enough water for stable health. A story of nature’s struggle to endure.
This patch of forest floor also tells the story of “native versus invasive” or rather “disturbed land”. These images are from the street’s edge where the Forest workers were asked by neighboring residences to control the “weeds” that were growing out into the street, scratching passing cars. The weeds are unwelcome by native forest species as well as the non-native suburban residents; these Eurasian immigrants (the plants!!) have learned to survive and thrive shading out potential growth of native oak and wildflowers while also “volunteering” their presence in adjacent gardens.
Finally there is one more story yet to unfold. Seeds will soon be covered with leaves providing conditions ripe for future growth into new perennial native plants and some may develop into majestic Oak trees as well as more “weeds”. Some will have additional help from the squirrels who are busy establishing their winter food rations; any seeds left uneaten can begin their new stage of life next spring. And the stories continue.