Edge of the Prairiethe sand prairies and savannas of the Chicago region

    Xeric Sand Prairie

At the end of the Wisconsin glacial period about 8,000 years ago, the continental glacier that covered the Great Lakes region of North Amerca melted suddenly, releasing a torrent of water that followed the route of the present day Kankakee river, but was many miles wide. When the flood waters abated, a huge deposit of outwash sand--gigantic sandbars up to one hundred feet in depth--was left behind on the southern side of the Kankakee valley.

liatris aspera and helianthus occidentalis bloom in August at Big Eastern

The effect was to create a beach-like environment of rolling sand dunes, similar to the nearby Lake Michigan dunes as well some areas of New Jersey and Nebraska. Over the ensuing millenia, a dry or 'xeric' sand prairie developed on some of the highest elevations of these small dunes. A sand prairie is dominated by perennial grasses, especially little bluestem and forbs such as blazing star, western sunflower, prickly pear cactus and blue lupine.

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Oak Savannas and Woodlands - open groves of black oaks with dappled sun on sandy ridges and flats.

Mesic Prairie - rich black sands with tall grasses and forbs; more like 'true prairie'.

Wetlands - sometimes flooded, rich in life but often maligned.

 

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