Looking up through the canopy of an Oak woodland on a sunny fall day is like looking through an intricate stained-glass mosaic.
While the colors of Oak leaves are more muted than those of Maples, Sumacs, and other vibrant species, Oaks’ beauty is unequaled when backlit with sunlight against dark tree bark or bright blue sky.
Oak savannas and Oak woodlands were the predominant ecosystems in this part of the
Midwest until the mid-19th Century, according to the Wisconsin DNR. Most of the acreage was:
- Cleared and plowed;
- Overgrazed; or
- Invaded by dense shrub and tree growth due to lack of fire, lack of grazing, or both.
Oak savannas and woodlands are now endangered habitats. I’ve been researching them lately, hoping to gain a greater understanding of the sweet ecosystem outside my back door. These sites offer detailed information on the history, current status, and outlook for these unique habitats:
At this time of year, I admit, living on the edge of a small Oak woodland isn’t easy. Last fall, we hauled 10-15 tarps full of Oak leaves into a large compost pile in the woods. This year, we were “lucky” when a windstorm blew most of the first drop of leaves into the forest and the perennial beds—where they’ll stay as a natural mulch until I rake them off in the spring.
But Oaks hold their leaves longer than other deciduous trees. Some have barely lost any leaves, and others will hold at least some of their foliage until spring. That’s fortunate for us, since we’ll have a “stained-glass” view for a little longer.