Burnham Nature Sanctuary home

Burnham Nature Sanctuary: the woods, meadows and 'emergent wetland'

This page is presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Parks Committee and website www.hydepark.org with the Burnham Sanctuary Volunteers, George Davis site steward. Join the Conference!

The prairie plantings are shown in the main Burnham page. View and read the nature signage.

The trees and groundcover in the sanctuary's woodlots are largely invasive and the trees are well into maturity. But starting about 1998, continuing efforts have been made to introduce more tree variety, create opening to sunlight to help newly planted trees and shrubs, and to either clear overgrown scrub and convert it to low-plant habitat or to start a more natural and varied multi-story woods. This latter includes establishing such bird-friendly native mid-stories such as serviceberry, cutting and treating stumps of buckthorn, ailanthus etc. and replanting the cover. Several of the "popular" shade trees established spread aggressively via seeds or stands of root sprouts--some of the copses are actually a single tree! There is a constant battle with the seeds from the invasive trees and cover, and shade from existing canopy, overgrowing mid stories and cover such as garlic mustard. Unless both clearing and continual introduction of new material is done, the battle is lost.

Natural area signage for Burnham- "Woodland Habitat Enhancement"

We start at the north end of the current lot, start of the trail into the woods with mostly self-introduced trees along the railroad embankment. Parking lot formerly extended northward, so it's difficult for either self-introduced or planted trees and other plants to get established in the meadow/butterfly meadow to the right. The picture to the right shows how overgrown the plants get after some trees are cleared. Since the invasives are equally at home in sun or dense shade, they block sun needed by replacement cover and mid story plants, as well as succession trees.

Pictures by Gary Ossewaarde, droughty summer 2005.

Path leading to the Burnham wood from the 47th lot. Overgrown section of wood cleared at one time.
This area has been cleared and replanted. Up the woodchip side trail, led by George Davis. Summer Solstice Walk, June 2005
In contrast, the foreground above has been cleared and new plantings installed, still mostly ahead of invasives. Younger trees left in back allow filtered sunlight. Below volunteering and succession (especially ivy) has begun. Note blue id tag for a planting. Note that vines sometimes cover a tree and kill it. Part of the Summer Solstice Walk 2005 group, site steward George W. Davis in front. Alternating thinned/replanted and overgrown stretches along the wood chip side path near the tracks. The path has recently been extended to about 45th. Below, "nature abhors a vacuum."Note the grasses ready to seed. Look under rocks and you may find a snake.
Vines, that may someday strangle a tree, try to take over a cleared section. Note blue marker for a new plant. Grasses seeded in a cleared path edge

Seeded grasses on wood path

Seeding cleared patches with rye and other grasses, largely collected from the open meadow to the east and seeded by Ancona students and others, is an important way of opening up the wood for variety and creating edge habitats highly valuable to birds. Right: Serviceberry planted a couple seasons previous? already has many competitors but at least has sunlight.

Serviceberry bush--will it be crowed out?  Clearing around it will be no good without new plant material

The naturalists and landscapers who designed the Sanctuary had two original visions for the Sanctuary: a butterfly meadow and an emergent wetland prairie. The butterfly meadow works and has loads of butterflies as do the prairie plantings. The wetland prairie appears to be a miscalculation. Nobody knows whether such a habitat is natural at this spot since it was all under Lake Michigan a century ago. The constant building and rebuilding of railroads, the Drive, lakeshore seawalls, and parking lots has left the section chosen a compaction of several different "soils." While a low area could be dug out, it required a membrane liner, which promptly leaked. And, perhaps because the soil above the membrane was shallow, the wet-liking shrubs and plants were placed on rises!! Also, our heavy rains that might leave water come in batches. So, what's at the boardwalk isn't a wetland prairie but it does harbor many birds, snakes and other creatures. Below boardwalk, right establishment of a new "prairie oak savanna" north of there.

South to the boardwalk from the oak savanna prairie Boardwalk with dying plants--these are not wetland but also not  drought resistant.
Low meadowy part of the wetland emergent prairie. The wet plants are on the rises. Re-established oak savanna prairie between wetland and forb prairie
The lowest point, southeast of the boardwalk, obviously not "wet" in June 2005. Re-established oak savanna prairie between the wetland and the forb prairie.