In this month of “Oaktober,” we celebrate the magnificent trees that dominate the canopy of many of our woodlands of the Forest Preserves here in northeast Illinois. White Oak (Quercus alba), our state tree, is one of at least a half dozen or so different oaks found throughout the Preserves. One of the less well-known species is the Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), identified by its straight towering trunk and straggly lower branches. Donald Culross Peattie poetically describes this feature in his A Natural History of Trees: “In outline, as it stands winter-naked, the Pin Oak is remarkable for having…a single, mast-like shaft of a trunk going right up through the center of the tree.”
A member of the red oak group, its leaves are deeply indented with multiple narrow pointed lobes. It grows on floodplains and edges of streams and swamps and can be found in flatwoods where the ground is wet in the spring and fall but dries out during the summer. Along the North Branch of the Chicago River, it can be found in the Forest Preserves at Sidney Yates Flatwoods, Clayton Smith Flatwoods and Harms Flatwoods. Look for its brilliant reds this fall.
By Jane Balaban, North Branch Volunteer Steward