Morton Grove Forest Preserves

Miami Woods

Miami Prairie Burn Nov. 21st 2008

On October 21st, the Miami Prairie was burned for the first time in more than 10 years. A trained crew of Forest Preserve staff conducted the controlled burn together with volunteer steward Kent Fuller. A breeze from the northwest carried the smoke into the Forest Preserve and away from Caldwell Avenue with its residences and traffic. The natural force of prairie fire is an important factor in bringing the prairie back to health. It stimulates the native plant community while it stresses invasive plants. Thousands of stems of invading brush were cooked, reducing the need for control using herbicide. Miami Prairie is one of the largest prairie remnants remaining within the watershed of the North Branch of the Chicago River and is managed by volunteers from the North Branch Restoration Project. Misunderstandings over the constructive use of fire had led to a moratorium on its use in Miami Woods until recently. As the site steward said, “at last we can again use our most important restoration tool.

After the burn is over

After the moratorium issued to prevent periodical burning of Miami Prairie ten years before, permission was finally given and it was set afire on October 21st, 2008. Th blackened prairie was covered by the winters snow and in the following spring, it sprang to life again. The plants adapted to periodic fires have deep roots and the flames do not harm the crowns of the prairie species but do discourage invasive varieties. In a visit to Miami Prairie the following summer on August 3rd, 2009, the renewal was evident with lush growth and blooming plants.

Movie Making in Miami Woods

This stout, many-branched oak tree has been growing on the bluff above the Chicago River for perhaps 150 years. It had its 15 minutes of fame a few years ago when it was featured in the movie “Dennis the Menace”. The film company rented the tree from the Forest Preserve District and built a children’s tree house amongst its branches. The adjacent bike trail was rerouted around the site during the filming and its Macadam surface covered with mulch to blend in with the surrounding forest locale. At either end of the shooting area, balled shrubbery was placed to limit the camera’s reach. One of the most beautiful pictures ever taken in our local forest preserves was the opening scene at the beginning of the film that showed the tree house on the river’s banks in the early light of morning with a doe nibbling at the greenery at the base of the oak.