Many wildflowers, grasses, bushes and trees are native to Illinois, providing plenty of options for your own yard and garden.
What you plant may depend on whether you are trying to attract a particular species to your yard, such as butterflies or hummingbirds. Monarch butterflies, for example, rely solely on milkweed to lay their eggs, Opiola said. Without milkweed, we would not have monarchs. Common milkweed and butterfly weed are both good choices for attracting monarchs, she said. Hummingbirds, on the other hand, love the color red and seem to like the columbine Opiola has planted in her own yard.
Because Illinois was once a tallgrass prairie, choosing plants that originated in these habitats is best, Opiola explained. Common prairie plants that people tend to love for their color and appearance include yellow coneflower, purple coneflower, common milkweed, butterfly weed, bergamot, purple prairie clover, black-eyed Susan, spiderwort, Joe Pye weed, prairie blazing star and ironweed.
"This really is just skimming the surface," she said.
Keep in mind that when choosing plants for your yard, you need to consider their particular sunlight and soil needs to make sure your garden area is a good match.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources includes a list of prairie plants and wildflowers native to Illinois on its website. The Morton Arboretum maintains an online plant directory, which you can search for plants native to Illinois.
A good local source for purchasing native plants is The Nature Foundation of Will County's annual "Bringing Nature Home" Native Plant Sale, which will be held May 18 at the Forest Preserve District's Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet.
(Lead image of purple coneflower by Glenn P. Knoblock)
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