You won’t find me and Buffy staying home when the temperature’s to reach 70 today and then drop to 33 tomorrow. We made a casual loop thru both barrens and the ravine.
My property is U-shaped with 13 acres of Shawnee National Forest land coming in the center from the south. A wet-weather creek runs through the wooded ravine (left in the picture). Woods and a sandstone barrens occur on both sides of the ravine. A barrens is a grassy plant community, similar to a prairie, only with more trees.
My property is a registered Land and Water Reserve, a program through the Natural Heritage Division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It was accepted as a reserve because of the barrens, which is an uncommon plant community, and because of a few threatened and endangered plant species. A Land and Water Reserve is one step below a nature preserve. It allows us to hunt and camp on the land. Neither are allowed on nature preserves. ATV’s, horses and trespassing are not allowed. We aren’t allowed to cut trees or do anything to alter the land. It will always remain a reserve.
The trees in the barrens are predominately oaks and hickories … and pesky sumacs. The state does prescribed burns, alternating barrens, according to the management plan. Without these burns, the sumacs would increase along with other trees, and the barrens would eventually become a woodlands. Fire doesn’t hurt the prairie plants because of their deep root systems. It does control invasive plants which have shallow roots.
The height of the little bluestem grass and the abundance of flowering plants depends on the amount of rainfall through the growing season. The tall grass in the barrens is beautiful covered with dew in the early morning, with snow and/or ice in the winter, when the tall seeded stalks blow in the wind, and late in the summer when flowers bloom in abundance and in many colors. The barrens is also definitely beautiful in the light of a full moon.