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Plant Focus

Quercus macdougallii
A rare oak endemic to the Sierra Juárez in Oaxaca

Touring Illinois with the IOS

National champion Quercus shumardii at Ellis Farm (click on photo to enlarge)

The 2015 IOS Pre-Conference Tour highlighted an amazing diversity of trees and biomes across southern and central Illinois. Our wonderful tour guides, Guy Sternberg and Alana McKean, went out of their way to make this whirlwind trip awesome. Our first day started out with some great views off the sandstone escarpments at Cliff View Park in Alto Pass, followed by a visit to the gigantic national champion Quercus shumardii at the Ellis Farm. If you look closely at the large burl in the photo, you can see that it resembles a skull! We enjoyed an evening stroll at the Pine Hills in Shawnee National Forest and watched a gorgeous sunset. The next morning, we hiked through the lush, beautiful Rocky Hollow at Ferne Clyffe State Park (my favorite hike of the trip). Deciding to branch out and look at something other than oaks, we enjoyed

Taxodium swamp at Heron Pond

a change of scenery at the northernmost ancient Taxodium swamp at Heron Pond. Walking the boardwalks through the quiet swamp was a stark change from the cushioned leaf-littered paths we had followed that morning. We eventually made our way back to the forests and visited the huge state champion Q. pagoda. Later that night we had a delicious dinner hosted by our friends at Longshadow Planters and Garden Ornaments. They led us on a tour around their spectacular facilities, and their beautiful property. Our third day began with Henry “Weeds” Eilers leading us on a tour around the Shoal Creek Conservation Area. After a delicious lunch, we drove to see the ortet tree of Q. ×deamii ‘Champion Seedless’, then visited a cool gnarled Catalpa speciosa outside the Power Farm Lincoln courthouse. We spent our last two days around Petersburg, IL, soaking it all in as the tour came to a close. Our guide Guy Sternberg took us to see Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery, and then showed us around the beautiful and diverse collection outside his home at the Starhill Forest Arboretum. On the last day of our trip, we made an exciting discovery at the Sand Prairie-Scrub Oak Nature Preserve: probably the first true specimens of Q. prinoides in Illinois! We enjoyed our final meal of the tour under the branches of a massive Q. macrocarpa in Bloomington, IL and made our way to The Morton Arboretum for the start of the 8th IOS Conference. It was an exhilarating trip with many beautiful sights. We look forward to the next one!

Editor's note: Further reporting on the Pre-Tour will appear in Oak News & Notes and International Oaks. And you can view more photos of the Pre-Tour in a photo gallery here.

Quercus macrocarpa in Bloomington, IL Cliff View Park, Palo Alto, IL
Heron Pond Lincoln Monument in Oak Ridge Cemetery
A grumpy bur oak in Starhill Forest Swamp cypress in Heron Pond
Longshadow Gardens Pine Hills in Shawnee National Forest 
State champion Quercus pagoda Quercus prinoides in Sand Prairie-Scrub Oak Nature Preserve
Under Maclura pomifera 'Cannonball' at Starhill Forest - Photo: R. Cameron Dramatic venation in Quercus ×guadalupensis at Starhill Forest - Photo: R. Cameron
Group photo at Rocky Hollow in Ferne Clyffe (click on the image—and be patient— to view in high resolution) - Photo: G. Sternberg