Two Garden staffers set out to capture 12 hours of the Chicago Botanic Garden on 12-12-2012 to submit to the One Day on Earth project. It turned out to be an ideal day to capture winter beauty with clear skies and lots of wildlife. We saw the lights at the Lake Cook Road entrance while it was still dark, the sunrise over the Malott Japanese Garden, gorgeous morning sun on the display gardens, the indoor Wonderland Express exhibition, the sunset over the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden, the holiday lights on The Esplanade and the indoor Greenhouses. Wonderland Express is open through Jan. 6, 2013, so don’t miss it!
All animals that inhabit this area, including humans, have to cope with the changing of the seasons. There are four basic responses to the cooler temperature and shorter daylight. Which is your favorite strategy for surviving the winter?
Do you eat more food during this time of year, loading up on high calorie goodies? You may be a Snacker. It is a natural instinct. You are like the squirrels, rabbits, and some birds that fatten up and keep going all winter long.
Do you travel to warmer climates during the winter? Wings are not required to be a Flapper. Count yourself in the company of warblers, monarch butterflies, and herons if you leave the area in winter. You may be migrating to escape the cold, but these animals are generally traveling to find more plentiful supplies of food.
Do you become sleepy and hibernate for four or five months every year? Then you are a Sleeper, like a bear, turtle, or frog. These animals undergo physical changes that shut down their respiratory systems and metabolism during the winter. You are probably not a true sleeper, even if it sounds appealing.
If you are prone to feeling tired and sleeping more in the winter, then it’s more likely that you are a Napper. Animals like skunks and opossum cozy up in burrows or under deep piles of leaves and sleep. Occasionally they emerge, find something to eat, and then go back to bed.
Snacker, Flapper, Sleeper, Napper — try to say that three times fast as you prepare for another midwestern winter!
Now that most of the trees have dropped their leaves, the scenery appears brown and boring UNLESS you know what to look for. I’m talking about tree bark. Learning to identify trees by their bark can be a fun winter challenge.
For starters, I’d like to share one of my favorites: the hackberry, Celtis occidentalis. Hackberry may not be in the top ten trees you think of, but maybe it should be.
Take a look at the interesting texture of this bark. If you use your imagination, it’s like a miniature Grand Canyon on its side, with layers of material exposed on the edges of steep plateaus.
I find the texture on this north-facing side of the trunk to look like bicycle chains. What do you see?
Hackberry trees are related to elms and they grow all over North America. We have a few of them on the east side of Parking Lot 4. Scroll back up—do you recognize the large picture above? This was taken in McDonald Woods, along the trail near Parking Lot 4. The large tree to the left of the bridge is a hackberry.
One reason for the popularity of this tree is that the fruits—hackberries—feed birds, squirrels, and other woodland creatures. In the summer, caterpillars of mourning cloak, question mark, and hackberry emperor butterflies feed on the leaves. If you came to see Butterflies & Blooms in late summer, you may have seen the many mourning cloaks fluttering around the Learning Campus thanks to our hackberry trees.
Open your eyes to tree bark this winter. You’ll find a range of interesting patterns and textures and maybe even learn something new about the trees around you.
Did you know that “blazing a trail” is the act of painting white marks, or “blazes,” on trees to guide others through the woods? People who make these paths are called “trailblazers” but the term has also come to mean “pioneer.”
Instead of using white paint on trees, the Chicago Botanic Garden uses a system of white arrows on brown signs. In this sign, which is located just past the Gatehouse, the arrow pointing up in this sign tells you to go straight forward to get to the Visitor Center, while arrows pointing left and right direct you to turn in order to reach the parking lot or Learning Campus.
You can be a trailblazer in the original sense of the word. You don’t need brown signs or white paint to be a trailblazer. Autumn is a great time to find natural objects such as sticks, acorn caps, and other things fallen from the trees, to make trail markers on the ground.
The picture here shows you four different ways to direct a person to the right. 1. Line up small stones in the shape of an arrow. 2. Use larger stones to make a traditional trail marker by placing a small stone on top of a larger stone and adding a third stone next the pile in the direction you want to send your hikers. 3. Bright red serviceberries contrast against the green grass and make a colorful marker. 4. Arrange sticks in an arrow to point the way.
Want to get fancy? Try this: form a square with sticks and tell the hiker how many steps to take by placing that number of stones in the middle. Make an arrow with small sticks to indicate direction. The trail marker in the picture tells us to take eight steps to get to the next marker. (This marker idea comes from an old Girl Scout Handbook.)
Mark the end of your trail with an X or a circle of rocks to let people know they’ve reached the intended destination. You can even place a treasure at the end of the path to reward your trail followers.
So don’t be put off by the cool fall weather—get outside and show your pioneering spirit by blazing a trail for your family and friends to follow around your home.
Thursday, November 1, Garden education staff watched a large red-tailed hawk hunting small animals on the Learning Campus.
This is a perfect place for these raptors. They can soar over the open lawn searching for small mammals, and when they catch a vole, rabbit, or other creature, they can safely retreat to a high branch of a nearby trees to devour their prey.
We watched it catch two small animals – probably mice or voles – within about ten minutes. It ate one of these unfortunate animals while perched in the pine tree pictured at the left and the second in the oak limb, pictured below.
You may see more hawks now and through winter than you do in spring and summer. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, there is a population of red-tailed hawks that live in our area year-round, but in late fall other hawks from far north fly into the area and join them during the winter. We must have more of the animals they like to eat.
Come to the Garden this month to see our fall gardens, but remember to look up in the sky, because it’s likely that you’ll also see a hawk!