Black oak savanna dune ridges interspersed with pin oak flatwoods comprise the natural core of the 220 acre Fisher Oak Savanna Preserve. In addition to the savanna dune ridges and pin oak flatwoods, another ecosystem is featured at Fisher Oak Savanna Nature Preserve: a high quality prairie highlights the property.
Pin oak flatwoods, rare in the modern landscape, result in portions of Fisher Oak Savanna being dedicated as an Indiana State Nature Preserve. Pin oak flatwoods hold water in the spring then dry later in the season or in summer. Because of the unique features of the ecosystem, many rare plants and amphibians reliant on access to wet / dry cycles call flatwoods home. The flatwoods and sedge meadows of the wet sections of property have less than 40% tree cover, allowing abundant sunshine to reach the ground level.
Savannas are woodlands with a canopy with 50 – 80%tree cover. The resulting understory receives abundant light for wildflowers, shrub layer and understory trees to grow. NICHES opens the savanna by removing invading trees, brush and returning fire as a natural process of ecosystem cycle of management. Prescribed fire, also called controlled burn, allows native species to thrive, returns nutrients to the soil and kills invasive species not adapted to fire. The blueberry bushes, lupines and puccoon, among many other native species benefit from the stewardship work.
The savanna and flatwoods core of Fisher Oak are natural remnants surviving despite the settlement, development, and agricultural land use surrounding them.
Interspersed and bordering the natural core are former agricultural fields that NICHES partnered with Spence Nursery to restore high diversity prairie and wetland communities. Prairies are open grasslands with less than 5% of tree cover; feature a diverse array of grasses, sedges, and forbs; and provide habitat for a diverse array of insect, bird, and other wildlife.
High diversity restorations conducted adjacent to existing natural remnants have been shown to have increased numbers of rare and declining animals. The restoration of the ag. field to high quality prairie will benefit, ecologically, the savanna and flatwoods.
History of Acquisition and Property
In 2003 NICHES acquired 133 acres including predominantly woods and 30 acres of fields. 130 acres IHT supported and dedicated as a State Nature Preserve.
In 2005 an additional 67 acres of agricultural fields added to the property.
In 2007 an additional 20 acres of low wet flatwoods added to the IHT supported State Nature Preserve.
Before the Fisher family settled in the area, the natural diversity of wildlife attracted Native Americans. The sand ridge, in particular, situated above the lower wetlands and prairies, made an excellent spot for encampments.
Overview of Management plan
To maintain the integrity of the savanna and flatwoods ecosystems, each will be managed to ensure dominance of oak species (white, black and pin). Thinning of understory trees, such as sassafras and black cherry to provide adequate sun reaching the forest floor for herbaceous ground vegetation.
Non-native vegetation will be controlled through management strategies including: cutting, pulling, targeted spraying with herbicide, and regular application of prescribed fire.
Orange Fringed Orchid
Things to Bring With / Dress Considerations
Dress for hiking with comfortable shoes, that in many seasons or weather conditions may get wet. Wear layers as the path travels through shady woods and sunny meadow and prairie. Bring a water bottle.
Mosquitoes and biting insects are present – so wear long sleeves or consider applying insect repellent.
Many birds and wildlife live in wood, savanna, meadow, and prairie so bring binoculars and a camera.
No restroom facilities.
Practice ‘leave no trace’ hiking – if you carry an item on the property, carry it off again, including trash, food wrappers, beverage containers, etc.
To reach Fisher Oak Savanna, (if coming on I-65, get off at Exit 193) go north on US 231 to Wolcott in White County. About a half mile north of the railroad crossing in Wolcott, Highways 231 and 24 turn to the west. DO NOT turn west (left) on Highways 231 and 24, instead go straight ahead on 900 W about 6 miles until you come to an older white farm house on a rise on the left side of the road. (There is another house behind it.) Drive ahead 1/8 mile to the gravel parking area on the west (left) side of the road.
The property is about 6 miles north of the railroad crossing in Wolcott on the west side of Jasper County Road 20 E (an extension of White County 900 W).
Local features of interest near the property