“Intact Oak Savannas are one of the rarest plant communities on earth, come explore one that is undergoing restoration.”
— Holly Elaine
Birding · Fall Colors · Spring · Wildflowers
This 0.6-mile gravel trail is a delight during all seasons. In the spring, come break out of your winter shell and experience the first blooms of the year. In addition, this is a hot spot for migratory birds. Come summer, you can experience majestic oak trees that are at their peak growth for the year, as well as beautiful wildflowers. In the fall, experience a kaleidoscope of colors as the leaves change color. Lastly, in the winter, you can experience a sense of solitude.
The oak savanna was once one of the most common vegetation types in the Midwest, but is today highly endangered. Intact oak savannas are now one of the rarest plant communities on earth. However, many degraded oak savannas still remain and can be restored. This is what is happening here at Neal Smith.
An oak savanna is a fire-dependent community that typically has spreading, open-grown oak trees with sun-loving grasses, sedges, and wildflowers growing under them. The non-woody plants and oak leaves provide fuel for fire that is often slow and creeping, compared to the fast-moving prairie fires. The shifting light under the trees provides an environment for a unique mixture of understory plants. Species typical of prairie and forest occur together, in addition to species found only in the savanna community. Restoring oak savannas requires removing fire-intolerant trees and burning the understory to allow light to reach the ground.
Flora & Fauna
In spring, you'll spot flowers such as Dutchman's Breeches and Bloodroot.