Studying Trees at the Morton Arboretum

In our new quest to become more well-rounded naturalists, Stacia and Birdfreak made a trip to Morton Arboretum located in Lisle, Illinois (southwest of Chicago). Here’s a recap of our first of what will most likely be many trips to this incredible place.

Morton Arboretum is open every day of the year with special seasonal events. We visited on what could be considered an off time of year but the weather was amazing for early November. Thus, there were a ton of people there. But with 1,700 acres to explore, we never felt crowded or rushed except inside the visitor’s center.

The detailed map supplied at the entrance is a must as it shows all the trails, specific plant communities, and various landmarks to see. There are 16 miles of trails plus roadways and grassy expanses. You are free to explore just about anywhere you want to and at your own pace. The nine miles of roads can also be biked and there is a tram to help get you around as well.

The east branch of the DuPage River flows through Morton Arboretum and there are several lakes, ponds, and streams to relax by. Photographic opportunities abound from just about every angle.

Birdfreak after photographing one of the lake scenes
Eddie (me)

With over 4,000 types of plants from the world over, it would take many visits to Morton to see everything. Plus, each season offers new surprises and they add new specimens each year. We already have plans to visit again in the spring!

We had a few specific places we wanted to check out. The fall colors were winding down so we concentrated on the large sections of coniferous trees. We checked out the gift shop but declined to enter the children’s garden (although it would be great to bring kids here) and the maze garden (which was overflowing with maze-loving children).

Our main objective was to view the Millennium Oak, an Illinois’ landmark tree.

The towering oak tree . . . is Illinois’ official Millennium Landmark Tree. America the Beautiful Fund selected the tree as the state’s Millennium Landmark Tree in part of the White House Millennium Council’s decision to raise awareness of the importance of trees’ witness to our nation’s growth. In 2000, America the Beautiful selected one landmark tree in each state to be protected and used to promote the respect and care for trees.

Millennium Oak
Millennium White Oak HDR

The afternoon went by all too quickly, we took hundreds of photos (look for highlights tomorrow!) and can’t wait to return in the spring.

We didn’t find a ton of birds but Morton is definitely a place to bird. We were focused on exploring trees but with the huge diversity of plant life and large trees, over 200 species of birds have been recorded here. Morton Arboretum is a perfect place for many levels of natural exploration and highly recommended for all ages.

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