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Prairie Walk May 23 at Garfield Farm Museum

CAMPTON HILLS, IL     On Saturday, May 23 from 9 am - 12 noon, a prairie walk will be offered at Garfield Farm Museum. John Engstrom, natural area manager, will conduct this hike through the Mill Creek Prairie and Savanna at Garfield Farm looking for the prairie's response to the increased management methods.
    Since 1986, Garfield Farm Museum has been managing its surviving natural areas at the farm. What had been largely a loss of native plants with years of grazing and cultivation, the initial management of  these lands has been ironically complicated by the concurrent increase in new aggressive invasive species.
    Burdock, Canada thistle were readily recognized as invaders of natural areas that had been around since settlement in the 1830s and 1840s. Even multi-flora rose brought to this country in 1930s seemed to be the most aggravating plant of the early 1980s. However, garlic mustard began to be a growing problem in the wooded areas at the farm. By the 1990s, this plant was recognized as a state wide threat. At the same time, the spread of buckthorn, a tree with indistinct but painful short thorns and a blue-black berry was demonstrating its ability to completely dominate open field or woods, changing soil chemistry, shading out all other plants, and re-suckering if not stump treated with herbicide when cut down and cleared.      In the wetlands, cattails tended to dominate with reed canary grass unless purple loosestrife got a foothold. The loosestrife could be successfully attacked with an imported loosestrife beetle but common reed, phragmites, with its 8 foot tall stalks and brown dense fluffy seed head in autumn is appearing in roadside ditches, retention ponds of developments, marshes, and flood plains.
    Now there is the threat of false chervil which seems to know no bounds. First seen in Illinois in Kane County in the 1970s, it thrived in road ditches. As highway departments became more aggressive with mowing roadsides, this plant spread. The white flat topped flower head with dense fern like foliage at its base, blooms in mid-May and has seed by June. June mowing of roadsides has spread the seed and dense patches of this plant with its thick carrot like root. It has taken over and spread into creek bottoms on floodwaters. What seemed to be a plant that favored moist locations, it has begun appearing in open prairie and woodlands. In this case the seed is either moved by seed storing mammals or it sticks with mud to deer hooves that is then carried into the woodlands and prairie. This new aggressor is yet to be recognized as a major threat which means it will be well spread, too late to confine it, once it receives state recognition. It is not easily pulled, controlled burns have no impact, and several applications of herbicide are needed to just control it.
    Mirroring the natural area restoration movement in the Midwest, the challenge of fighting existing invasive species has multiplied with the spread of these new opportunistic plants at Garfield Farm Museum. The initial flush of success in getting a return of native plants 20 years ago is now an ongoing management issue as left alone, the invasives would dominate.     John Engstrom will share his knowledge of dealing with these plants as he points out the native species that are trying to make a stand. There is a $6 donation for the hike. Walking shoes, long pants, hats, and mosquito repellent are recommended. Reservations are required as space is limited. Call 630 584-8485 or e-mail Garfield Farm Museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road.

For more information about Garfield Farm send an e-mail message to: or call 630/584-8485.