Chicago Botanic Garden

Explore the Garden

highlights

McDonald Woods

• Woodland trail

• Shelter

• Council ring

• Boardwalk and bridges

WHAT’S BLOOMING

WALKS

gardening tips

Featured Video

Ecologist Jim Steffen gives a tour of spring wildflowers blooming in McDonald woods.

McDonald Woods

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Landscape Garden

McDonald Woods is a rare 100-acre piece of a larger oak woodland that thrived in this region just a century ago. While oak woodlands once dotted northeastern Illinois, today only small remnants remain.

The plants in McDonald Woods, a native woodland system, provide food and refuge for an incredible array of animals, birds and insects. More than 400 species of native plants live here, and 20 species of mammals, 118 species of birds, and thousands of different insects call the woods their home. Some of its inhabitants, like the earthworm, pose challenges to maintaining a healthy environment for the native plant species.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is working to restore these woods to their presettlement condition. It is the setting for environmental education and conservation research, and has been designated a demonstration site for oak woodland restoration in the Chicagoland area.

How do we measure the success of restoration? In McDonald Woods, we look for the return of native species, an increase in their diversity, and improved health of the mature community. We also note a reduction in buckthorn, garlic mustard, Indian strawberry, creeping moneywort, and other invasives.

McDonald Woods is a success story because of the efforts of Garden scientists and volunteers who remove invasive plants, collect and scatter native seeds, and grow seedlings, which produce more seeds.

Come walk the nature trails of McDonald Woods, where oak trees and wildflowers flourish because of restoration efforts. Join us in our new timber and stone shelter built just inside the entrance to the woodland nature trail, a place for hikers, visitors, and groups to gather. As you start your trip to explore the Garden’s native woodlands, you can come inside and see what a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) structure from the 1930s looked like.

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