This is the 46th of 50 Days of Chicago Nature. Read previous posts here.
Even 100 years ago, Vermont Cemetery no longer was an active cemetery. As the years went by, the 1-acre parcel became a time capsule of the Illinois of prior millennia.
"It's hard to find prairie in Illinois, even though we're called the Prairie State," says Don Nelson, longtime site steward at Vermont Cemetery along with his wife, Espie.
The acre benefited by being hemmed in by a railroad grade, which made it doubly difficult for farmers to reach the land with their equipment. What resulted is rare Grade A dry-mesic prairie harboring more than 100 native plant species.
The acre, which is fenced in for fear of it being "loved to death," requires near-constant management, particularly of invasive species such as sweet clover. The Nelsons have pulled enough of it, though, that they can take in a pleasant view of a previous era.
"At least for 100 yards, everything we see is what Illinois would have looked like a 100 years ago," says Don.