October is Oak Awareness Month, or OAKtober, in Illinois. Officially declared in 2015 by our state, OAKtober was created to recognize the importance of oak trees and the growing concerns about the rapid decline in oak tree population in our communities. According to the Chicago Region Tree Initiative, there has been a substantial decline in oak tree population in the past 200 years. That may seem like a long period of time to account for, but considering that the lifespan of an oak tree can range between 100-300 years this is a major concern for our communities because it shows that oak trees are not repopulating as successfully as they have in the past.
There are 20 oak species native to Illinois and they are heavily relied on by animals, insects, and other plants to provide food and shelter. Patty Wetli from WTTW reports that, “Oaks are what’s known as a ‘keystone species,’ ecologists’ term for species that hold an ecosystem together. Keystone trees are the species that other organisms rely on for food and shelter; remove them, and the ecosystem might not survive, or might be altered drastically in unanticipated ways.”
Urban sprawl, agricultural use, fire suppression, invasive species, and loss of grazing animals are just a few of the reasons oaks are disappearing from the landscape. A few immediate things we can all do to help restore the native Oak habitats in our region – remove invasive species that are damaging those native ecosystems, advocate for Oak habitats in your community, and PLANT OAKS!
At Spring Grove Nursery, we love Oak trees! We grow several straight species Oaks as well as several “nativar” selections. Nativars are cultivars of native Oaks that offer more resilience in our not-so-native urban growing conditions. Here are some of the Oaks we grow at SGN Trees:
Sources & Inspiration:
Pictured here are some Oaks growing in our nursery. These beauties won’t be ready for another few years, but they sure are growing along nicely – Ready for future OAKtober plantings!