Dawn Redwood Discovery at Katie’s Marsh

Barrington’s Three Special Guests

by Ali Longbottom(BACT Volunteer)

The Barrington Area Conservation Trust has made a new discovery–actually, not one, but three.

Along Ridge Road in Barrington Hills is one of BACT’s preserves, Katie’s Marsh.  This land was donated recently by Scot and Tiffany Thomas in honor of their daughter, Katie, with the hopes of restoring all the history they knew the land harbored.  You may not know it, but on the East side of the road (just before Oak Knoll), this 6.7 acre property houses a pond, the remnants of a decades-old botanic garden, part of Flint Creek, and a few special surprises even we were shocked to find.

Here, BACT is working hard to clear Buckthorn, an invasive tree species that impedes the growth of others around it by stealing away light and moisture.  By removing the Buckthorn and planting a variety of replacement shrubs and trees, BACT can slowly restore Katie’s important wetlands. The first stage of this process is, of course, the clearing: if you are used to driving past the preserve, you will have noticed not long ago that several harmful trees no longer stand in the way of their native neighbors.  In fact, you may have noticed something else entirely.

Standing tall and proud in an area once shrouded by Buckthorn are three beautiful Dawn Redwood trees, front and center at Katie’s Marsh.  These towering deciduous trees (almost disguised as Evergreens, but that shed leaves in the fall) can grow up to 100 feet tall.  Just like Katie’s Marsh, the Dawn Redwoods are making a comeback of their own: thought to be extinct for millions of years but remarkably discovered in the 1940’s, they came to life in China and were introduced to the United States shortly thereafter.  It seems like a mystery that they found their way here, but since nicknaming the wetland-loving Dawn Redwood the “water pine,” the Chinese who found them might tell us it should come as no surprise.  These extremely rare, moisture-seeking marvels have been granted protected status in China, and have their own preserve (the Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve) in North Carolina.

Before they showed up in 1944, Dawn Redwoods were only known about from fossil records–about 65 million years of fossil records.  Who knew that just down the street, you could make a 65 million year old friend today?  Next time you happen to drive down Ridge Road, take a look tot he East and you just might find a whole lot of history looking your way.

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