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35th Annual Native Plants & Natural Area Management Seminar - Feb. 22

Campton Hills, IL: The wild swings in weather and the onslaught of new invasive plant species calls for special vigilance by property owners of and volunteers at natural areas. Learn to meet the challenge at Garfield Farm Museum’s 35th Annual Native Plants and Natural Area Management Seminar on Saturday February 22, 2020 from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm. The daylong session and lunch is $55 and half day is $25. Reduced fee scholarships are available for students and individuals under 30 year of age.

    A special presentation by Applied Ecological Services consulting ecologist, Will Overbeck, features the advantages of a holistic approach to invasive plant management. Overbeck will use common reed, Phragmites australis, as an example. What once seemed to occur only in ditches here and there along the interstates, now forms dense stands 8 feet tall or more with a brown fluffy head of seeds. Even tolerant of road salt, it is found in almost any slightly moist ground in city or countryside. Its ability to send out runners 25 feet away to colonize another area makes it difficult to control as it chokes out native vegetation.

    The day’s five presentations begin with a basic course on the history of land development and how to determine what a property was like before settlement. With 36 years on site experience, Jerome Johnson, the museum’s biologist will continue with the second session identifying native plants

    Jack Shouba will present “the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” looking at invasive species, their impact, and how to evaluate areas that contain both native and non-native plants. Shouba, a native of Kane County, spent part of his teaching career saving the Wolf Road Prairie in suburban Westchester, IL. He has taught numerous courses in plant identification at Morton Arboretum and excels at nature photography. Upon moving to Campton Township, he became actively involved with the Campton Township Open Space Program, preserving and restoring key natural areas. Little did he know that he was moving into the epicenter in Illinois of false chervil, Anthriscus sylvestris, an aggressive plant of wetlands and woodlands that originating in eastern European, it is even a problem in the seemingly remote country, Iceland.

        After lunch, Overbeck shares his 15 years’ experience. The remaining portion of the afternoon will focus on general control methods to allow native plants to thrive. Johnson will discuss the effective use of controlled burns, efficient methods of mechanical removal, and the necessary appropriate use of herbicide.

     The natural areas and prairie restorations established by private property owners, forest preserves, parks, and backyard gardeners are under pressures no one could anticipate 50 years ago when the public’s attention turned to environmental health. Simply acquiring and preserving native plants using controlled burns as the key management tool did not account for such rapid worldwide dispersal of invasive species. Global trade and rapid transportation has brought seeds and plants from entirely different eco-systems that abound unchecked on the Illinois prairies.

Attempts at legal regulations have had a minimal impact and loosening those regulations are creating more vulnerabilities. The general predictability of seasonal temperatures and precipitation was taken for granted but now even management tools such as controlled burns are weakened by unfavorable weather conditions. Cultural and economic change has also challenged the up and coming generations of prairie preservationists as the standard of living has become more expensive and limited exposure to the outdoors have kept a generation of children indoors lured by electronic entertainment.

     For all enthusiasts of Illinois’ native flora, now more than ever, efforts need to be doubled just to maintain what a half century of collective work achieved. Weather variability opens the doors to species of plants that need milder climates to survive. The animals that have adapted to the plants in this region may lose those food or habitat sources as different types move northward. Non- native insects like Japanese beetles can ravage native roses, grapes, and wild cherry trees just as native insects like black walnut weevils accidentally spread thousand-canker disease from foreign shores in black walnut trees with 100% mortality.

     What may become increasingly difficult to manage and preserve on a large scale, calls for a concentrated effort to preserve enough of existing native plants for the day when new technologies and biological means can be developed to insure native species survival. The annual native plant and management seminar is a step in that direction by continuing to educate the public and challenge them to take action.

   Individuals and students under 30 years of age can apply for reduced fee scholarships. Reservations are required by calling the museum at 630 584-8485 or email . Garfield Farm Museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road in Campton Hills, IL. Garfield Farm Museum is one of the pioneers in focusing on the three themes that most affected Illinois – namely history, farming and the environment. This National Register Historic Site is a historically intact former Illinois prairie farmstead and teamster inn being restored by donors and volunteers as an 1840s living history farm museum.