Images like the above illustrate the extent of habitat destruction that has occurred in the Midwest US within the past 100 years. Dolton Prairie, also known as Dolton Avenue Prairie, is a remnant wet prairie just south of the border of Chicago in Calumet City, Cook County, IL. The Illinois Natural Areas Inventory has identified it as a Category I natural area, a “high quality natural community.”
The Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) only recently secured this tract of land, purchasing it from Ashland Chemical Company in 2010. But as early as 2002, Calumet is My Back Yard (CIMBY) had already begun work to restore the prairie. The west side of the site has suffered from some construction material dumping activities and is more disturbed, but the east side contains some great remnant wet prairie flora! Since restoration began in 2002, the Calumet Stewardship Initiative, FPCC, restoration contractors, and other groups have removed populations of invasive species. The main offenders have been wetland invasives such as glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus), common reed (Phragmites australis), cattails (Typha spp.), and reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea), as well as secondary woody growth like cottonwoods (Populus deltoides). A prescribed burn was recently conducted on February 6th, 2017.
On Saturday, March 18th, 2017, Habitat 2030 volunteers descended upon the prairie to continue removal of glossy buckthorn around the perimeter of the site. We made a big dent in the glossy buckthorn population along the south edge of the prairie. The prairie itself was still in winter color, but little grasses and sedges were popping up in the areas that had been burned earlier in February. Return to Dolton in the spring and summer to see white-pink spiraea plumes and spikes of yellow loosestrife. Wear waterproof shoes!
How can you help Dolton Prairie? There is still more glossy and common buckthorn along the southern edge for removal along the south edge, but soon the only non-native brush remaining will be in the lower quality western end of the site. Some small invasive wetland plant populations remain, but successful treatment will likely require herbicide.
One fun stewardship activity is seed collection. It’s one of the best ways to learn how to identify plants – since they are not flowering at the time of collection, you have to (get to) learn the plant vegetatively and in fruit. At the workday, Dan Spencer, the regional ecologist for FPCC, spoke briefly about the new seed zones created for different areas of the Cook County forest preserves. Will you help collect diverse native seed to restore and preserve our regional biodiversity? Contact Genevieve Nano to get involved. Here is a listing of the scheduled workdays – sign up at fpdcc.com/volunteer:
- April 15th, 2017
- May 20th, 2017
- June 17th, 2017
- Volunteer at Dolton Prairie
- Dolton Avenue Prairie on eBird
- “Forest Preserve District Ensures Permanent Protection for CIMBY Restoration Site, the Dolton Avenue Prairie” by Rebecca Blazer
- Dolton Prairie on Google Maps
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