This beautiful 5.28-acre remnant oak forest is located on the northwest edge of Barrington Hills. Like BACT’s other preserves, the Jack David Mondschine Wildlife Conservation Area has a fascinating history.
Massive boulders can be seen scattered about the property, carried in by the glaciers that moved through our area more than 10,000 years ago. Melting glacial ice scoured deep ravines and created a lovely woodland stream that now runs intermittently during the wet spring season.
Naming the preserve in honor of her father, Jenese donated the property in 2008 and saw it as “a place where animals can freely come and seek shelter without fear of being injured by human activity”.
Preserved forever and protected from surrounding development pressures, the Mondschine Conservation Area gives us a unique and enchanting glimpse into what this portion of Barrington looked like prior to European settlement.
Where a Tree Grows…
The oak ecosystems of the Chicago region are generally classified into the following four categories based on canopy density and composition and structure of associated plant communities:
• Forests—60-100% cover, >100 trees/ha: dense canopy and understory dominated by spring ephemeral forbs • Woodlands—25-60% cover, 50-100 trees/ha: intermediate canopy density with a mixture of shrubs, forbs and grasses in the understory. • Savanna—10-25% cover, 10-50 trees/ha: open canopy conditions with a mostly grass-dominated understory. • Open savanna/barrens—>0-10% cover, >0-10 trees/ha: very little canopy, mostly small stunted trees with grass dominated ground layer.(Chicago Wilderness Oak Ecosystem Recovery Plan)
Mayapples in spring
Sedge at the foot of an oak
Skunk cabbage in summer
A variety of oak species are native to the Chicago Region: white, bur, red and black oak are the most common. Oak ecosystems have existed in this area for 20 million years. They cycled with the advance and recession of the glaciers. After the final glacial retreat, Indigenous Peoples stewarded a mosaic of prairies, savannas and forests.
When the European settlers arrived, there were approximately 1,000,000 acres of oak ecosystems in the Chicago area – about 22% of the total land area. Oaks were predominant, with sugar maple, green ash and basswood in the understory. The settlers converted prairies and savannas to agriculture. Trees were felled to build structures. Fires were deliberately suppressed and animals were removed. Imported plant species were planted.
Invasive Dames Rocket
Girl Scouts pulling invasive Garlic Mustard
By the 1930’s, approximately 230,000 acres of the original oak ecosystems remained – just 27% of the original acreage. Today, those ecosystems are further fragmented. By 2010, only about 173,000 acres of remnant oak ecosystems could be found. An inventory of the Chicago region showed that oaks made up less that 4% of street trees and less than 10% of park trees. Check out this interactive tree canopy map!
The Morton Arboretum states that “numerous studies have shown that trees promote health and well-being by reducing air pollution, encouraging physical activity, enhancing mental health, promoting social ties and even strengthening the economy”. Chicago Region Tree Initiative is a partnership for coordinated action on key issues facing trees.
BACT has planted hundreds of oak trees in our preserves and helps coordinate the distribution of oak saplings from CRTI. We are also sprouting oak saplings right now from local acorns sorted at our 2021 OaktoberFest. Join us in preserving our precious oaks!
Have you listened to BACT’s podcast yet?
Our second episode,“Name that Tree!”, reviews some of our tree favorites and how they function within their ecosystems.