Know Your Trees


Creative Prints of the Forest: TREE LEAF I.D. with Kenneth Weik

JULY 13, 2019 @ 10AM-Noon; David Adler Music and Arts Center, Ballroom; 1700 North Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, Illinois 60048

This workshop features Tree Leaf Identification and Creative Designs from the Forest! Learn with our partners, the Lake County Audubon Society. Explore unique characteristics of trees, learn examples of native trees, and use taxonomic keys for identifying trees. Weather permitting, participants will walk in the forest behind the Adler Center, collect sample leaves, and then be introduced to the technique of leaf printing. RSVP here if you plan to attend (THANKS!): Leaf it to me Ha!

Pollinator Planting Opportunities

Plug Planting Event at Liberty Prairie

Please join Libertyville Township Open Space District
volunteers and staff for a morning of stewardship in a newly
restored portion of Liberty Prairie Nature Preserve. Volunteers are needed to help on Saturday, June 22 and Saturday, June 29 from 9:00 AM to Noon to plant nearly
10,000 native grass plugs in their new home! The plugs will prevent erosion by anchoring soil in place and will create new habitat for native animals and insects. Please wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty in and if you’d like, bring your favorite hand trowel and gloves. Participants under 18 must
bring a signed parental waiver available HERE. Volunteers 15 years of age and younger are welcome if accompanied by a supervising adult. We’ll provide instruction, tools, gloves and refreshments.

To access the site, please enter at the Oak Openings Nature Preserve Parking Area on the east side of Route 45 one-half mile north of Casey Road. Click HERE for a map. From there, signage will direct you as you drive the gravel trail for one mile along the banks of Bull’s Brook and through restored prairie and oak savanna to the designated parking area. We encourage nearby neighbors to bike or walk if possible. This event is the culmination of efforts to restore native
vegetation and hydrology to 44 acres of former agricultural land and improve downstream water quality.

To RSVP or find out more information, contact Jon Happ at Funding for this project is
provided, in part, by the Illinois EPA through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

Libertyville Township
359 Merrill Court
Libertyville, IL 60048

The Wondrous Pollinators

Have you ever walked through a park, forest preserve, or garden and embraced the serenity of nature? The buzzing bee, fluttering butterfly, humming fly are just a few of the pollinators who help to perpetuate the floral beauty we see around us. Catching a glimpse of these wonderful creatures is a sign that environment around them is healthy and bountiful, full of life sustaining nectar and pollen.

A pollinator is an animal or insect that facilitates plant reproduction. Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, as well as other insects and small mammals pollinate plants, sustaining our ecosystems and producing our natural resources by helping plants reproduce. Pollinators move pollen from the anther of a plant to the stigma on another part of the same plant or a nearby plant. This pollen then fertilizes the plant, transferring genetic material critical to the reproductive system of most flowering plants. These fertilized plants can then proceed to make fruit and/or seeds, which is the end product of plant reproduction.

Why are pollinators important?

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Almost all flowering and cone bearing plants on earth need help with pollination. Pollinators transfer the male sex cells or pollen to nearly 200,000 different plant species and over a thousand crops. With adequate pollination, wildflowers reproduce and produce enough seeds for dispersal and propagation while maintaining genetic diversity. In addition to the food that we eat, pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife.

The benefits of pollination

We all know that the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been rapidly increasing in the last century due to increased use of fossil fuels and destruction of forests. Flowering plants use some of this carbon dioxide as they respire to make oxygen. They also help to purify water and prevent erosion with their elaborate root systems. In addition to these purification processes, their foliage protects the earth from the rain’s impact. And most importantly, the water cycle depends on plants to return moisture to the atmosphere. Pollinators are key to reproduction of wild plants, without them, existing plant populations would decline affecting soil, air, nutrients, and other life-sustaining elements.


Artist: Pamela Lee

The artist’s statements about Discontinued

From my earliest memories of walks through field and wood with my father, I have been awed by nature’s creation. In my art I try to  express of the connectiveness  of all things: flora and fauna, agrarian and architectural, and human. I consider the earth itself as a conduit for nature’s cycle of life. With “Discontinued” I have made small portraits of some of the native plants in our region. They are portraits of things that soon may disappear if we are not careful. The nest is empty, as it signifies that the  birds who make them may disappear as well.

Pollinator Garden Planting

Image result for bird pollinators
Photo by Dr. Bill May

Now that the month of May is here and the weather is beginning to warm, we can begin to safely add new plants or transplants to our new or existing gardens. Native plant gardens are perfect pollinator buffets for birds, bees, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, and other small mammals. A varied diet of a flower rich habitat helps to supply the resources necessary for pollinator biodiversity, wild plant reproduction, and crop productivity. And since pollinators create one out of every three bites of the food we eat they provide human nutrition!

How to Build a Pollinator Garden

What characteristics are unique to a pollinator garden? When it comes to pollinator gardens, not all gardens are created equal. Pollinator friendly gardens provide habitats that support the entire life span of pollinators using native plants.
A pollinator garden should include:

  • use a diverse selection of regional native plants that provide nectar and pollen;
  • provide a water source;
  • provide nesting materials and other protective habitats such as hollow-stemmed plants, decaying wood, leaves, grasses, and bare soil, to help support the
    pollinators entire life cycle;
  • have plenty of sun and protection from the wind;
  • create big patches of blooming plants attractive to pollinators;
  • have continuous bloom throughout the growing season; and
  • avoid pesticide use.

Site Characteristics

First, assess your garden site to determine which native plant species will thrive in the garden’s environment. By planting the “right plant for the right place,” you will reduce the time and resources needed to help your garden thrive. Consider the following:

  • Sunlight: How much sun does your garden site get? Full sun is six or more hours per day is required for pollinator gardens. Midday sun and southern exposure will be much stronger and will support a greater diversity of plants;
  • Soil: Test your soil to determine its characteristics: soil type, pH balance, as well as nutrient levels. Do not amend your soil with chemical fertilizers;
  • Moisture levels: Determine the moisture content of your soil;
  • Wind exposure: Determine the amount wind the garden will endure;
  • Wildlife: Deer and rodents love to eat native plants. If these pests are present, opt for resistant plants; and
  • Aesthetics: Native pollinator gardens are informal gardens. Plant them where they will complement your landscaping scheme.

Prepare the Site

  • Remove existing sod and other non-native plants, especially invasive species. See the previous post, Remove the Competition, for more details;
  • If necessary, add topsoil and or organic compost;
  • Add a biodegradable straw mat or brown paper bags on top of the soil to help retain the soil’s moisture and act as a weed block;

Plant Selection and Placement

Here are a few things to consider in your design:

  • Select a variety of flowers and grasses with varying bloom times, as well as plants that support larvae, and species with protective habits;
  • Plant similar moisture-loving plants to save on water bills;
  • Some plants readily spread. Consider their growing habits when making your selections;
  • Dense plantings of one plant per square foot help lock in moisture and reduce weeds;
  • Create mass groupings of four to five plants together with the taller plant species toward the center of your garden. This practice allows for easier pollinator foraging. To make life easier, many of the nurseries listed below have pre-planned pollinator gardens for purchase;
  • Vary color and bloom time throughout your garden; and
  • Leave a border of twelve inches for spread and mulch.

Regional Seed Vendors and Native Plant Nurseries

An abundant and diverse array of region specific or ecotype flowering plants is the most important element of high quality pollinator habitat. This array should include annual and perennial forbs and legumes, shrubs, vines, and trees that initiate flowering. Spring is the time for planting bare root or potted native plants. The following native plant nurseries are within the ecotype region for Northern Illinois:


  • Position your potted plants on top of the weed barrier covered soil according to your design. This practice helps maintain even spacing;
  • Remove the plants from their pots by squeezing the sides and pushing the bottom of the pot toward the top of the plant. Do not pull on the top growth! Continue squeezing the sides of the pot while gently wiggling the plant to release the root ball intact.
  • Break up the root system of your plant by creating four legs from the bottom of the plug with your fingers or knife;
  • Dig a hole that is two to three times the size of the root mass and deep enough to accommodate the existing root system;
  • Place the plant in the hole, holding the plant so that the top of the soil around the plant is at the same level as the surrounding soil. Fill the hole with dirt. Press down the soil around the plant to remove the large air pockets. Create a concave depression to hold water. Repeat until all your plants are planted;
  • Water the entire garden gently, this will settle the soil around the roots and allow new, deeper, root formation; and
  • Add a layer of natural mulch, leaving space around the plant.

Helping Your Garden Grow

  • During the first year, water your garden often. It is recommended that your garden receive one inch of water per week;
  • With time, a native garden can become low-maintenance but for the first couple of years, fast-growing weeds can overwhelm any planting. Weed by hand a few times a year for the first two seasons;
  • Leave seed heads and stalks to provide food and habitat for birds and overwintering insects;
  • Remove dead plant material in the spring;
  • Divide and transplant plants as needed when growth resumes;
  • Never use weed killers, chemical fertilizers, or pesticides.

The installation of native plant gardens provide homeowners, municipalities, and private companies the opportunity to create pollinator habitats. At its core, pollinator conservation requires plant diversity. It is the grouping of diverse, ecotype plants that provide the backbone for maintaining habitats which support not only pollinators but invertebrates, fish, other wildlife and humans.

The Shore

The Shore, (Gray Memory)
By Beth McKenna

Double-block color woodcut diptych

I have a childhood memory of walking down to the Highland Park beach with my grandmother. Dead fish covered the beach, and while others were splashing around, Grandma would not allow us to swim in those waters. She was a scientist from University of Chicago and she knew. “It’s not safe” were Grandma’s words; “TOXIC” was what she might have meant. This was circa 1971, before the establishment of the EPA and the epic clean-up of the Great Lakes that brought life back into the waters and their shores, and allowed for the restoration of surrounding wetlands and wildlife. While “The Shore” is a woodblock print depicting today’s beautiful and colorful shoreline of Lake Michigan, “Gray Memory” is a bleak depiction of the past abuses of our waters. Today and going forward we must continue to support and demand environmental protection of the Great Lakes watershed!

Contributing author and artist Beth McKenna

The Shore, (Gray Memory)
By Beth McKenna

Double-block color woodcut diptych