Helping a Rare Shrub

From a single plant, ecologists work to renew streamside population   A rare white flower will soon begin to bloom, and thanks to collaborative efforts by the Forest Preserves and the Chicago Botanic Garden, you now stand a better chance of seeing it.   The flower belongs to shadbush (Amelanchier interior, also known as inland shadblow), which grows as a shrub or small tree in woodlands along stream banks in our forest preserves. Named for an eastern fish (shad) that returns to spawning grounds when the plant is in bloom, this magnificent species has become rare due to habitat loss and degradation, so much so that it is listed as threatened in Illinois.

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Internships cultivate conservation

by Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle   Most of us think of the Forest Preserves as a place for discovery, exercise and rejuvenation. But the Forest Preserves provides many other resources to Cook County residents. Some are not obvious to the general public, yet provide direct and long-lasting community benefits. Our paid internship program is a prime example.   The Forest Preserves funds more than 30 paid internships each year, both directly and through partners. Through our diverse programs, Cook County residents—students, young professionals and career changers—can develop critical professional and life skills.   Several intern positions are now open, many with applications due in early to mid-April, and more to come.

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Did You Know? That hopeful little blue flower in suburban neighborhoods is Siberian squill

One of the early spring flowers to gladden the hearts of Cook County residents is Siberian squill, Scilla sibirica. Its small, blue, six-parted flowers blanket many shaded suburban yards throughout April, particularly in areas of open soil without competition from other plants.   Introduced from Europe and Asia, this short, fragrant plant can be found at a low level in Cook County forest preserves such as Chicago’s Dan Ryan Woods. It’s common on sites where old homes once stood. Though Siberian squill is common in Cook County, ours is one of only a few Illinois counties where it occurs.   According to Forest Preserve ecologists, squill doesn’t tend to spread aggressively. In Perkins Woods in Evanston, the plant has spread into areas where garlic mustard, a truly aggressive nonnative plant, has been removed. But in most places where it grows, it’s a quiet, well-behaved and bright touch to April in the suburbs.

Try This: Cast your line for trout

Trout fishing returns to the Forest Preserves of Cook County   Although not native to our region, rainbow trout are favored by anglers for their bright color and moist, flaky meat. With the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Forest Preserves stocks four lakes with more than 3700 pounds of trout each spring and fall. This spring’s stocked lakes are Axehead Lake in Park Ridge, Belleau Lake in Des Plaines, Green Lake in Calumet City, and special this year, Horsetail Lake in Palos Park. The spring season opens at dawn on April 5—so get ready to cast a line!   Learn more about spring stocking here, and check out our Fishing Guide for more on fishing in the Forest Preserves.

Birdhouse Contest Now Open

Welcome to Crabtree Nature Center’s first birdhouse building contest! The purpose of this contest is to highlight the need for nesting sites for birds and showcase your creativity. Houses will be built by registered participants, displayed throughout the summer and voted on by visitors.  Prizes will be awarded in September. View the contest flyer here.

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Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County