For the past few years the Urban Wildlife Institute has been chronicling the diversity of wildlife at Nature Boardwalk and Lincoln Park Zoo. We use motion-triggered camera traps to collect photographs of mammals (coyotes, raccoons, etc.), conduct visual observations of birds and butterflies, and even deploy hoop-net traps to monitor the turtle populations in our ponds.
Every once in a while you run across a plant you think everyone should be growing just because you like it so much. And if you’re up on natives, this makes the case for the pasture rose (Rosa carolina). I can only find one flaw, but I'll get to that.
I’m glad we used pasture rose at Nature Boardwalk. The large, shell pink, flowers are decidedly pretty and the customary, glossy dark green leaves are handsome as well.
Everyone here is gearing up for the big opening of Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo on June 24, and the plants are getting ready too! Prairie grasses will be a prominent feature of the landscape, a process that will take some time as they develop their extensive root systems.
In some prairie plants, as much as 90 percent of the weight is underground. This extensive root structure protects the bulk of the plants beneath the soil, enabling them to survive in an ecosystem with frequent disturbances, such as fire and drought.
Standing at the pond’s end, I found it easy to imagine the beginnings of a prairie landscape taking shape as the workers reached the end of the construction phase. Like many times before, I watched the sunburned crew load a wheelbarrow, heft it up and steel themselves for a long march around the boardwalk. This has been part of the job for months now, and as you might guess, they were probably getting weary, especially at the end of a long day.
And then, something surprising happened. I saw the wheelbarrow tilt and the gentleman struggle to keep it upright. What went on?
Follow the growth of this new urban ecosystem with our Nature Boardwalk blog. Director of Horticulture Brian Houck and Coordinator of Wildlife Management Vicky Hunt will provide regular updates as native plants and animals establish themselves in this rare refuge.