In the southeast corner of Nebraska, near the little town of Salem (a stone's throw from the Kansas border) grows a unique population of oaks known as dwarf chinkapin oak. Depending on the type of soil they grow in, this close cousin of the chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), can grow as small, multi-stem trees or as sprawling shrubs, resembling American plum. This population of oaks is known far and wide by oak aficionados and is home to the national champion of the species! The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum collects acorns from these plants nearly every year for nursery production as there is growing interest across the country for use of this species in the landscape. It is especially favored by wildlife enthusiasts. Most of the Salem population is found on dryer, rocky knobs, growing in association with relatively diverse mixed-grass prairie. The surrounding area is also home to some of Nebraska's most diverse deciduous forestland including hickories, redbuds, red oaks and many old and mighty bur oaks.
|Oxymoronic: a large dwarf chinkapin oak (Quercus prinoides). |
A plant this size may be a hundred years old or older!
Unfortunately, in recent years this area has seen an explosion in the growth of eastern redcedar, which are starting to choke out many of these unique oaks. Something needed to be done and recently a few of us from the Nebraska Forest Service spent a day on the property cutting out cedars. Armed with many chainsaws (and other saws) we happily cut and destroyed as many cedars as we could. We think we killed about 1,500. Many more still need to come out and we look forward to returning next year to continue the assault.
|Cutting out eastern redcedars (Juniperus virginiana)|
The beautiful day ended with a delicious chili and cornbread lunch prepared by the Stalder Family, long-time residents of the area and owners of the unique woodlands. A good time was had by all.
|Mmmm. Chili and cornbread at the Stalder Farmstead.|