Oak Savanna Restoration

In the 1700s-1800s, a biodiverse savanna ecosystem was found throughout much of Iowa. It was comprised of widely scattered oaks and shagbark hickories with prairie wildflowers and grasses growing underneath. Savanna provides a home for prairie and forest plants, as well as specialists that thrive best in savannas, such as wild hyacinth, purple milkweed, barn owls, and spotted skunks.

During restoration, non-savanna species are cut or girdled.

How savanna became endangered.

With the absence of fire over the past 100+ years, less desirable trees like maple, honeylocust, elm, ash, cherry, and basswood grew up around oaks and shagbark hickories. The forest floor was also shaded, which prevented oak seed germination, and choked out the prairie wildflowers. In pastures where large, majestic oaks can be still be easily spotted, continuous grazing caused the prairie understory to vanish, and continues to prevent oak regeneration.

With strategic intervention, these towering beauties and their healthy growing offspring can continue to be a part of Iowa’s landscape for future generations. 

Bring back a spectacular ecosystem.

Prescribed fire favors savanna species such as oaks, shagbark hickories, and diverse, native wildflowers.

Prudenterra can help you restore an existing savanna in your woodland by cutting down trees that are not oak and shagbark hickory, and introducing prescribed fire. When needed, we also plant oak and shagbark hickory seedlings, broadcast local ecotype prairie seed, and advise landowners on managing livestock to achieve greater ecological benefits.

Contact us to discuss oak savanna restoration opportunities for your land.


The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa by Cornelia F. Mutel

Iowa’s Native Giants: Restoring an Oak Savanna Ecosystem

Lengeling Family Restores Oak Savanna, Prairie, and Their Ecological Legacy