Restoration on the 9.6-acre Edwards Savanna and Gravel Hill Prairie sites was initiated in 1998 on what had been agricultural land abandoned in the late 1970’s. For the first ten years, invading non-oak species of trees and shrubs were removed and the site periodically mowed to maintain the steep slopes in protective herbaceous ground cover. Scattered young black oak trees were left growing on the site in order to provide partially shaded savanna conditions in the future.

The Gravel Hill Prairie, located on the eastern edge of a gentle, south-facing slope, is underlain by well-drained gravel. This forms the base of a steeper glacial kame that underlays the adjacent Edwards Kame Woodland.

In 2008 a grove of dense black oak trees on the west edge was thinned in order to release scattered larger-crowned black oak, and provide sunlight to a future herbaceous ground layer of native species. During the late summer of 2014, the herbaceous cover was mowed. During the summer of 2015, it was treated with two applications of herbicide.  The herbaceous vegetation control was funded by the IDNR Div. of Fish and Wildlife’s Game Bird Habitat Development Program.

Herbicide was again broadcast on the site in 2016, and again in April 2017 before planting native prairie and partially shade-tolerant savanna species in May 2017. Dry prairie species were planted on the Gravel Hill Prairie site. Oats were included as a short-lived nurse crop that occupies space that would otherwise be invaded by weeds. The site was high-mowed twice during the 2017 growing season to control the growth and reseeding of annual weeds that became established after planting. Firebreaks, to divide the site into three burn units, were installed in August 2017 by planting orchard grass, timothy and ladino clover.

Pre-treatment conditions of autumn olive and invading woody vegetation on Edwards old-field site (April 1998)

West edge of Edwards Savanna looking north with the Luckey Prairie on the left.  Before thinning black oak stand (Oct. 2008)

Remaining herbaceous cover mowed (late summer 2014) and re-growing for first herbicide application treatment (April 2015)

Preparation for second herbicide treatment of remaining herbaceous vegetation
(July 2015)

No-till seeding into dead sod. (May 2017)

Oats nurse crop emerging (July 2017)

The oats and emerging weeds are high mowed to six inches. (July 2017)

Firebreak seeding with erosion control netting applied on steep slopes. (August 2017)

Black-eyed Susan and early successional prairie species blooming after the first growing season (October 2017)