The Chicago area landscape was formed by ice. As the Wisconsin glacier receded about 13,000 years ago, it deposited glacial till it had collected when it moved forward—boulders, stones, gravel, sand, and clay particles—and built overlapping moraines. The material dropped out unevenly thereby creating rolling hills, ridges, and kames. Where huge blocks of ice broke off from the glacier and melted, kettleholes were formed that became marshes, ponds, and lakes. (Jerry Sullivan, Chicago Wilderness, An Atlas of Biodiversity) Burnidge Forest Preserve on the western border of the town where I live is one such area. An oak savanna that contains five species of oak plus Shagbark Hickory grows throughout the rolling sandy hills, which slope down to five kettleholes.
Huge White Oaks dominate the flat savanna at the entrance, their foliage deep carmine. A few equally large Bur Oak and Shagbark Hickory followed the trail up the first hill. Smooth Sumac flamed along the edges. Wine-stemmed Tall Coreopsis greeted me on the cap of the hill; walking a little further, a large stand of copper Little Blue Stem waved in the breeze.
As I descended the slope on the other side of the hill—the south side—, Scarlet, Red, and Black Oak came into view.
I crossed a road and then climbed up another, steeper mound. Similar oaks covered the hill, mostly smaller White Oak, glorious in vivid carmine dress. These rolling hills surrounded two kettleholes, a heart-stopping view. Proceeding to the top of the hill, I overlooked another kettlehole, larger than the first two.
Stands of Indian Grass and Little Blue Stem grew abundantly here along with Showy Goldenrod in this open, sunny area. Turning to the left, I followed another path down a slope that overlooked another kettle onthe left.
Two huge old white Oaks dominated the landscape on the right side of the trail.
Smaller White Oaks prevailed in this part of the woods..
Common Blackberry covered much of the woodland floor along with its cousin, Black Raspberry. The Blackberry foliage was a colorful reddish green, while that of Black Raspberry was still green.
Colorful patches of Gray Dogwood with wine-suffused leaves and coral-red pedicels appeared here and there. A few scattered Bellflower were still in bloom. The seed heads of Joe Pye Weed, White Snakeroot, Purple Giant Hyssop, Elm-leaved Goldenrod, Wild Coffee, and Drummond’s Aster were abundant. Occasional clumps of Bottlebrush Grass appeared.
Some people deplore the advent of fall, seeing it only as a precursor of winter. But I say, “Live for today!”
Go outside and enjoy the crisp autumn weather. Climb hills, kick leaves! Drink in the gold and vermilion foliage of the trees and shrubs. and the clear blue sky that always seems bluer in fall.
O be less beautiful, or be less brief!
Sir William Watson