Oak savannas, also known as “oak openings,” are sparsely treed landscapes having two to 20 trees per acre. In northwest Ohio the dominate oak species are black oak and white oak, with sprawling canopies yet spaced far enough apart that a great deal of sunlight still reaches the forest floor. This light gradient from moderately shaded to uninterrupted sunlight gives oak savannas an incredible diversity of plant species.
Most prairie plants can be found in the sunny areas and more shade-tolerant plants such as woodland sunflower, fern-leaf false foxglove and zigzag goldenrod do well in the trees’ shade zone. Red-headed woodpeckers thrive in these savannas, as do red-tailed hawks and summer tanagers.
Oak savannas need occasional fires to keep their understory open so the forest floor plants can receive life-giving sunlight.