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FPDCC: December at Crabtree: Fall is drawing to a close, but not all of the leaves have fallen

  • Posted by Barrington Hills
  • On December 11, 2017

Fall is drawing to a close, but not all of the leaves have fallen.

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Crabtree Oak with leaves still attached
It happens every year. A few days after the last yard waste pick-up of the season the Northern Red Oak in my back yard releases all of its leaves. Every single year. Oak trees are peculiar that way. Some of the oaks here at Crabtree will hang onto their leaves until the spring. In the words of Jerry Seinfeld “What’s the deal with that?” Actually, scientists aren’t exactly sure why some trees hang onto their leaves, but there are a few interesting theories out there. 
All trees shed their leaves. The needles (leaves) of evergreens are dropped and replaced, but in a gradual, ongoing fashion. Trees that drop their leaves all at once are called deciduous and include some conifers, the bald cypress being the most obvious one in this area.  The term used to describe trees that hold onto dead leaves is marcescence. Oaks are the most obvious, as many species of oaks do this, particularly when trees are young. Other species that practice marcescence include American beech, hornbeam and hophornbeam. One of the more interesting theories as to why trees hold onto leaves was tested by Danish researchers. The Danish scientists hypothesized that the dead leaves were retained to protect the leaf buds from browsing animals like deer. To test this theory, they offered deer twigs that were stripped of leaves and twigs with leaves still hanging on. The deer fed preferentially on the stripped twigs.  Interestingly, the leaves on lower branches of oaks do seem to cling longer than those of upper branches. Another theory is that young oaks hang onto their leaves so that the nutrients contained in the leaves will be available to them when they need them most, early in the growing season. Whatever the reason, you now have a new word to try out on your family, or shout at your oak trees that insist upon dropping their leaves after your last yard waste pick-up. 
December Programs at Crabtree

New this Winter

Fledgling Artist Series

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Do you have a child ages 7 to 11 that loves to explore and create?

Sign up today for a new program that blends artist discovery and nature education.

Children will meet an animal ambassador up close and be inspired to create a masterpiece to take home.

Sign up for one or all three!


Saturdays, December 9th, January 13th, and February 10th

from 10:00am- 11:30 am


Cost is $5 per child per class or $10 for all three.

Registration is required. Call today to learn more! (847) 381-6592

Programs that require registration:

Botanical Beverages
What do teas, hot cocoa and tequila have in common? Come learn about some of the more popular plant-based beverages and sip a few!
Ages 8 & up, Call 847-381-6592 to register.
Friday, Dec 8, 7 pm
Art in Nature – Still Life Painting – Almost full
Artist Sharron Boxenbaum will introduce you to the steps in creating a still life acrylic painting. Composition, determining values and finishing the work will be covered.  Adults only, Call 847-381-6592 to register.
Sunday, Dec 10, 1 pm

Evening Owl Hike
Join us for an informative talk about these nocturnal hunters. Afterwards, we’ll look for these unique predators on a 0.5 mile hike.
Call 847-381-6592 to register, ages 7 & up 
Friday, Dec 15, 7 pm
Other Programs: 
Wee Wanderer Wednesdays
Join us on select Wednesday mornings for a special program for your little naturalist. This is a parent/caregiver and tot program for children ages 2 – 6.
Weather permitting, time will be spent outdoors. Space is limited; tickets will be available on a first come, first served basis starting at 9:30 am for 16 children. 
Wednesdays, Dec 6 & 2010 am

Conservation@Home: Sustainable Seed Starting – Native Plant Edition
Learn how to start your own native plants with less waste. North Cook Master Gardeners will share tips for starting columbine and milkweed plants from seed this winter to add to your home garden in the spring. The demonstration will include a discussion of ideas to make this process more sustainable by recycling common household and garden items. 
Saturday, Dec 9, 1 pm

The Science of Snow

Join this family-friendly program to learn how snowflakes form, how snow can keep you warm, and more about  winter weather through indoor and outdoor snow activities.

Sunday, Dec 17, 1 pm

Solstice Celebration

Welcome the light back on the shortest day of the year. Raise a glass of cocoa and celebrate the sun around a campfire.

Saturday, Dec 23, 1 pm

New Years’s and Nature

Come learn about the history of the New Year holiday and its connections to nature. You may even be inspired to create your own nature-themed resolution!

Saturday, Dec 30, 1 pm