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Sept 6 Prairie Walk at Garfield Farm

CAMPTON HILLS, IL:  Garfield Farm Museum is offering a two hour plus prairie walk on Sunday, September 6th at 9:00am. The tour will be led by Jerome Johnson, the museum’s biologist.

    Although the rains of June suggested a towering prairie of big bluestem grass, the drier conditions of July and August may have prevented an increase of height beyond the normal. However for plants that started growing sooner than the bluestem and Indian grass, they definitely are taller than in normal years. Patches of rusty pink Joe Pye weed are easily seven feet tall with the a better showing than earlier in the season of bumble bees, honeybees, and even a few Monarch butterflies sipping nectar.

     The glory of yellow saw tooth sunflowers reaching 11 feet is counterpointed by even taller samples of the dreaded hay fever but native plant, giant ragweed. Perhaps two springs of ample rainfall have caused the greater germination of ragweed seed in places that had not as visible presence in previous years.

    In general all the flowering plants of late summer are taller than normal and breaking a path through them takes some energy. Yet it is late summer when the prairie truly demonstrates what tall grass means. From May to July, big blue stem, Indian, switch, and prairie cord grasses stay relatively short. By August though, the 5 to 7 foot heights dominate and overwhelm anyone walking through these dense stands. At the same time one can observe the end of some plant’s seasonal cycle as the flowers of summer are producing seed for future generations. The seed heads not only help identify the plant but some like the yellow cone flower have seeds that give off a strong citrus like smell.

    The walk will also feature some of the first impacts of an Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Natural Area Stewardship Challenge Grant. This $12,000 grant matched by $4000 from museum donors, is employing an all out attack on the invasive wetland plants, common reed, false chervil, and reed canary grass. Pizzo and Associates that restore natural areas, have begun the carefully herbiciding of the common reed, Phragmites. This plant can rapidly takeover a wetland and choke out native plants. Although its bushy head of seeds makes it look invulnerable, it tends to spread more by its roots. Thus taking out a patch of this plant can reasonably eliminate it from subsequent seasons. Other plants like reed canary grass have a greater bank of seeds in the ground, and knocking them back might give a bit more of a leg up to the native plants to dominate or survive.    As time allows, other work committed by several Eagle Scouts will be examined to see the current impact of removal of buckthorn, honeysuckle and boxelder. In some cleared areas, dwarfed versions of plants after just one season of sun exposure are attempting to bloom.

       The lay of the land, the historic use of the land over time, plant relationships and climate all have impacted the plants that survive today at Garfield Farm Museum. Johnson will bring his knowledge and experience to bear in understanding these complex relationships.  Reservations are encouraged and can be made by contacting the museum at 630-584-8485 or The cost for the walk is $6. Visitors should dress appropriately for the weather. Individuals interested in a less vigorous hike should call to schedule separate tour.

    Garfield Farm Museum?s land preservation agency, the non-profit Campton Historic Agricultural Lands, has preserved over 375 acres of land, including over 55 acres of managed natural areas. Garfield Farm Museum is a historically intact former prairie farmstead and teamster inn being restored by volunteers as an 1840s working farm. The museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road.