Written By Janice Cha
When Botanist Kelsay Shaw from Possibility Place Nursery, Monee, Ill., visited third grade students at Hynes School in Morton Grove last week, he wasted no time in getting the kids excited about trees.
“What do these little nuts have in common with this squirrel, and this tree?” Shaw asked the students, passing around a handful of acorns and holding up pictures of a gray squirrel and a giant oak tree. Hands shot into the air as kids vied to be the first to answer.
Shaw went on to explain to children the differences in various tree species—but he took an underground approach to the topic by focusing on tree roots, the importance of fungi to tree health, and how trees can be moved safely from a tree farm to a yard in front of someone’s house.
Children peppered Shaw with questions about caterpillars, trees, and tree planting, all of which he fielded with easy-to-understand answers. Then Shaw produced what the kids had been hoping for: free tree seedlings for them to take home and plant in their own yards, plus a few for school grounds.
“Whether you choose the Pagoda Dogwood, the Tuliptree or the Chinkapin Oak, your trees will all need plenty of sunlight, space, and water in order to grow nice and tall,” Shaw instructed as he handed around 12”-tall seedlings in black plastic pots.
Possibility Place specializes in producing native plants. “We collect all of our seeds locally from Northern Illinois, Northern Indiana, Iowa and Southern Wisconsin,” Shaw explained. The nursery offers 50 species of trees, 60 native shrubs and about 140 types of forbes, grasses and sedges.
What sets Possibility Place apart from other nurseries is its method of tree growing. “We raise our trees in bags from the beginning,” Shaw said. “That way, trees can be transplanted with nearly 70% of their root system intact, compared to 10% to 15% the traditional way, where trees must be dug out of the ground and then have their roots wrapped in burlap.”
Over the past years, the Village of Morton Grove has turned increasingly to Possibility Place to replace trees lost to the Emerald Ash Borer.
“These trees have been very successful and show very little stress during transplant or drought compared to ball-and-burlapped trees,” said Village Arborist Bill Burns, who helped coordinate the school visit.
Possibility Place is located at 7548 Monee-Manhattan Rd., Monee, Ill. For more information, visit Possibility Place online at www.possibilityplace.com.