We're very pleased to publish Douglas Tallamay's original essay for the Reader on the importance of oak trees. For an even deeper dive we highly recommend his 2021 book The Nature of Oaks. It's full of richly produced color photos and its presentation is a work of art unto itself. Here's an excerpt from the book, regarding how and why the oak tree is the “keystone species.”
“In most U.S. Counties, oaks, cherries, willows, birches, hickories, pines, and maples are producing vast numbers and types of insects that support animal populations. These tree genera are keystone plants because they play the same support role that the keystone in a Roman arch plays. In place, the keystone supports all the other stones in the arch, but take the keystone away and the arch collapes. But a yard without keystone plants will fall far short of the insect abundance necessary to sustain viable food webs, even if dozens of native plant genera are present. No other tree genus supports so much life.”
Additionally, we're thankful to Cedar Rapids' native Clark McLeod's Monarch Research Project and his permission to reprint the infographic you see below. Add to these resources, the annual Monarch Butterfly tag and release party hosted every September by Nahant Marsh in Davenport. And lastly, the Joyce and Tony Singh Family Foundation are gracious enough to match contributions directed toward promoting and protecting oaks in what ever form that may be. Contact them via PrairieOaks.org. Maybe there's a good reason the oak tree is both Illinois' and Iowa's state tree.