Play Golf, Then Explore Our Great Oaks

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June 18, 2024

The special thing about playing Wonder Woods Mini Golf this summer is that it comes with a chance to explore all the fun features and natural wonders of The Morton Arboretum.

After you’ve finished a round of golf with the family, keep exploring the themes of the mini golf holes. For example, you can learn more about oak trees.

Oaks are among the most magnificent and important trees at The Morton Arboretum and all over the Midwest. In fact, the tree in the Arboretum logo is a white oak tree. Oak trees and their acorns support hundreds of other kinds of plants and animals. Check out these places at the Arboretum to learn more about majestic oaks.

Children’s Garden

Explore a giant acorn and play Acorn Plinko to help understand just how rare it is that an acorn grows up to become a tree. Even though in a good year a large oak tree may drop 10,000 acorns, you’ll learn the odds are against the acorn.

Kids can romp among giant acorns in the Children’s Garden.

The Children’s Garden is just across the central courtyard from the golf course. You can spend a whole afternoon in this 4-acre outdoor play space that encourages children to safely romp, climb, splash, see new things, and wonder about trees and nature. There are ponds, streams, things to climb on, and plenty of places for grownups to sit while children play. Many of its interactive features are based on tree science. It is designed for children from toddlers to 12-year-olds.

Next to the Children’s Garden is a twisty Maze Garden made of living green shrubs. Find the secret to reach the big sycamore tree for a towering view! Older children love to solve the puzzle.

Sterling Morton Library

Located in the Administration and Research Center near the mini golf course, the Arboretum’s Sterling Morton Library has a large collection of read-along nature books for children, including books about oaks. Arboretum members can check out books, and anyone can read them in the library. For a quiet and calming interlude, select a book and read it together with the family in the secluded May T. Watts Reading Garden attached to the library.

The May T. Watts Reading Garden is a tranquil space to enjoy a good book from the Sterling Morton Library.

Oak Collection

Discover more than 80 species of these splendid trees, with many different leaf shapes and branch structures. If you look closely at a branch in summer, you may see baby acorns developing. While you’re at the Oak Collection (Parking Lot 8 on the East Side), challenge yourself. Can you find three different kinds of oak trees with different leaves?

In the Oak Collection, you might see acorns developing on trees such as this white oak tree through the summer.

East Woods

Take a walk along the trails in the eastern part of the Arboretum, through woods full of oak trees. The Big Rock Visitor Station (Parking Lot 13) is the best place to begin your adventure on a trail through the East Woods (Parking Lots 8 to 14 on the East Side). There’s a short paved trail right near the parking lot that is perfect for strollers.

All around, you will see oak-dominated woodlands that are the native type of forest for northern Illinois. The tall oak trees are called keystone species in this ecosystem because, like the keystone at the top of a stone arch, they support the whole structure. Hundreds of other types of plants and animals feed on oaks, live in them, or depend on the environment they create with their shade and their leaf litter.

Squirrels hunt for nuts, including acorns, throughout The Morton Arboretum.

Can you spot birds or other animals in the oak trees? If you see a hole in a tree trunk, a bat or a flying squirrel might be sleeping inside, waiting for nightfall when they will come out to hunt for food.

Don’t just look overhead; look at the fallen trees, too. Trees that fall over are left in place in the East Woods to provide homes for animals and to slowly decay and improve the soil for our native plants. Can you find any animal homes in fallen trees or in the ground? Think like a chipmunk and look for small holes! There are lots of places to hide in the woods.

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