The Mighty Oaks in St. Charles

By Natural Resources Commissioner Ryan Johnson

Did you know that the mighty oak tree is the dominant tree type in northern Illinois forests? There are nine species of oak that are native to Illinois, but the white oak (Quercus alba), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), and the red oak (Quercus rubra) are the most common. These trees provide food and shelter to hundreds of animal and insect species, many of which rely solely on oaks and no other tree species! These species, especially the insects, are critical in the food chain for a lot of animals, including many of the songbirds that we love to see and hear throughout the year. Another important aspect of oak trees is their leaves. Oak leaves tend to curl and dry when they fall to the ground in autumn, which is different from the leaves of maples and other tree leaves, which tend to form a dense soggy mat on the ground. Oak leaf litter provides winter shelter for many insects, and, since the leaves stay dry and crunchy, they tend to decompose relatively quickly the following spring.

If you are interested in seeing some of these important (and giant!) trees in St. Charles, then you are in luck! The City of St. Charles owns Langum Woods, which is located directly west of the St. Charles Public Works facility in the northeast corner of Riverside Avenue and Devereaux Way. The woodland has been degraded over the year by invasive species, but the St. Charles Natural Resources Commission recently hosted a workday to remove some of the invasive brush. In addition, naturalists have conducted native plant surveys to document the species diversity in the woodland. We encourage you to stop by the woodland to admire this public amenity and to take in the beauty of our natural history. There are paths through the woods to guide you, and if you are lucky you may even spot some wildlife, including the great horned owl family, that regularly visits the area.