Weeks have passed since the beginning of fall term, and the average Carl has long since settled into their fall routine. The Arboretum, on the other hand, is a vision of constant change. With each walk in the Arb, changes become clearer every day. Whether it’s the oak leaves crunching underfoot, the absence of the Meadowlark’s song, or the crisp chill of each new morning, fall is in full swing. From the riverbank in the floodplains to hills of the prairie, the Arb is preparing for another frosty Minnesota winter, and its changing composition displays such temporal beauty.
As wonderful as the autumn Arboretum can be, it’s hard to forget the hard work and many years of active land management that went into creating these diverse landscapes. It’s almost hard to believe that the tall grass prairies and oak savannahs were once laid in agriculture. The differences between a walk in the Arb and a walk through a cornfield are a testament to the progress that has been made. Restorative success can also be observed in the reappearance of selective fauna. The emergence of prairie voles, sedge wrens, Henslow’s sparrows, and bobolinks all indicate that management practices are on track. Plant compositions in many areas are close to normal, prescribed fire cycles have benefited native species, and weed suppression efforts are starting to triumph. The transformations that have occurred have been sweeping and vast, and they continue with the work that goes on each and every day.
The freshman project this year involved planting more red oak, northern pin oak, and white oak trees in Alumni field. The Arb is also working with the Physics department to construct a small weather station, allowing managers and researchers to monitor trends in Arb weather year to year. A grant proposal is being developed to clear sections of buckthorn and competitive non-native trees from what will later become native forest. Old grassland monocultures fields are slated for conversion to prairie over the next year as well. And these projects are all in addition to the ongoing work, such as weed suppression, trail maintenance, prescribed fires, and more. Every year the dedicated work of managers, students, and volunteers improve the Arboretum, contributing to our ongoing goals of Conservation, Research, and Recreation.
-Brandon Valle '14 for the Cole Student Naturalists