Michael Simmons and Lora McClelland stand by their Conservation@Home sign. Photo: Mark Luthin


As Lora McClelland started the tour of her 7.5 acres wooded property, she immediately pointed out that it’s a work in progress. Her parents started the process of restoring the woodland by planting native plants and working on the removal of the invasive species that are prevalent in northern Illinois woodlands.

After Lora and her husband, Michael Simmons, moved into the house, they realized that there is still some work to be done. After clearing the honeysuckle, box elder and cherries from one area, they were amazed at the number of native species, such as goldenrod and Joe-pye weed, which popped up in their now designated oak savanna.

Judging from their activity, the bees appreciated the change as well. Remnants of spring wildflowers lined the path, including celandine poppy, wild geranium and shooting stars. Many other spring ephemerals can be witnessed on their property, including wild ginger, bluebells and Solomon’s seal. Removing garlic mustard definitely increased the spring blooms of these beauties.

2 bumble bees on Joe pye weed. Photo: Mark Luthin

Walnut, burr oak and butternut are just a sampling of the native trees found on the property, all providing food and habitat to an assortment of wildlife, including nesting barred owls and Cooper’s hawks.

Getting tips from NLI’s very own Zach Grycan on removing reed canary grass has been beneficial as well. There is a noticeable difference between two areas that are in various stages of the recommended treatments.

Led by their two dogs, the daily hikes are filled with new blooms, sights and sounds. Being able to see the positive results of their efforts over the years has no doubt been a rewarding experience for Lora and Michael.

To learn about the Conservation@Home program visit our website here.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to NLI Trustee, Mark Luthin, who visited the McClelland and Simmons home to certify their yard in August of 2022 and for writing this story.

Blue cohash. Photo: Mark Luthin

butterfly on brown eyed Susan. Photo: Mark Luthin

Bur oak tree. Photo: Mark Luthin

Family dogs. Photo: Mark Luthin

Woodland floor with native wildflowers. Photo: Mark Luthin

Photo: Lora McClelland

Barred owlets by Ashlyn Rogers

Trail with family dogs. Photo: Lora McClelland




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