Past in Bloom, Thanks to Oak SavannaPosted by admin on 11/16/12 • Categorized as Fall/Winter 2012
By Hilary Dickinson
Hundreds of years before the Center for the Sciences existed, an oak savanna alive with wildflowers and grasses thrived in the same general location.
The area where Chamberlin Hall stood until 2008 was once occupied by oak trees and an understory of grasses and wildflowers, according to Yaffa Grossman, professor and chair of the biology department. Chamberlin’s demolition left a gaping hole, which has since been transformed into the Science Center Oak Savanna.
“At some point in the historical past it was an oak savanna, but none of the soil structure or underlying pieces of what was an oak savanna is left there anymore because it was a building,” Grossman explains. “We’re creating a landscape that echoes what was here in the past as opposed to recreating what was here in the past.”
The result is more than visually pleasing landscaping. In accordance with the campus master plan, which called for native-species landscaping, 20 such species were planted in September 2009 with the goal of creating a self-organizing and sustainable ecosystem.
Designed to mimic the 1836 Wisconsin Public Land Survey description of the area, bur oak trees were planted in addition to a native-species mixture heavily enriched with showy flowers—plants producing an abundance of bright blooms.
“It’s a much showier mixture than what would have occurred naturally because people like looking at flowers,” she says.
Of the 20 species planted, two are grasses and 18 are flowers. Three years in, Grossman and her students have identified approximately 12 of the 20 species planted, among them black-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers, and goldenrods.
That rate of return is typical, Grossman explains. “We don’t expect to see them all yet,” she says. “We might see all of them in five years or there’s some we may never see.”
What they have seen, however, is their fair share of invasive species. Sweet clover was the predominate invasive species in 2011, and last summer it was birdfoot trefoil.
Working under Grossman’s supervision, Beloit College Sustainability Fellows Nathan Whitley’11, Lucile Tepsa’14, Safari Fang’14, and Sophie Maloney’14 have removed the intruding plants.
Pages: 1 2