Did you know that oak trees have been in Illinois for 10,000 years? There are 20 species of oak that are native to our state, including white oaks, swamp oaks and red oaks. Unfortunately, Illinois is down to 17% of its original oak ecosystem. This is in large part due to developments and invasive plants like honeysuckle and buckthorn.
Oak trees’ longevity in Illinois have made them well-suited to our changing environment. They are crucial to the ecosystem as other species have coevolved with them. Oaks are actually referred to as “keystone species” which means they keep the ecosystem intact. It is estimated that 500 to 2,300 species depend on the mighty oak tree.
One of the major problems oaks face is that there are not enough young oak trees to replace the older ones. This creates an unsustainable environment for oaks and the numerous species that rely on the trees. If you’re planning on planting a tree, plant an oak so they can keep providing valuable services to the environment!
To learn more about oak trees’ natural heritage in Illinois, we encourage you to watch the video below from The Conservation Foundation.