In 2001, Plants of Concern was launched through the Chicago Botanic Garden to track the status of rare, threatened, and endangered species in northeast Illinois. A landmark program at the time of its conception, Plants of Concern has remained a model for long-term, collaborative community science and still represents one of the only programs of its kind in the world. Here, we’ll look back at our history and celebrate a few of the many accomplishments that make the Plants of Concern program a success – now, and into the future.
Plant Science & Conservation
...and this year's fall colors It’s hard to think of fall without picturing a mosaic of trees with warm-colored hues. Amber browns, golden yellows, and blazing reds cover many natural areas in the Midwest, including the Chicago Botanic Garden. It’s all thanks to fall’s shorter days and cool nights.
When it’s 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the drought-stricken Mojave desert, you’ll forgive our botanists for hoping against hope for a bit of rain for the plants.
If you have heard about milkweed, you no doubt know about the plant’s unique relationship with the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Milkweeds are the only plants on which monarchs lay their eggs, and its caterpillars, also called larvae, eat milkweed leaves to grow. But these plants have other interesting characteristics, including blooms that are amazingly complex.
When my mother first moved from England to Chicago in the late 1950s, she’d never heard of a prairie. In England, a grassland is called a meadow. But every kid in the neighborhood near Chicago’s Midway Airport called the empty, overgrown lots between buildings, and the grassy areas in the giant railroad yard, “the prairie.”
Pondering the Prairie Series Rosa setigera, or Illinois rose, grows in moist prairies and thickets, and is a typical wild rose in many ways: five pink petals, with lots of yellow stamens in the center supported by prickly stems. There are distinct differences, however. Illinois rose is larger than most wild roses of the prairies—often growing up to 8 feet tall, while others rarely grow more than 4 feet tall and usually less.
Pondering the Prairie Series Life in the prairie in the middle of winter is fairly uneventful; at least for humans who focus primarily on life above ground. Perhaps now is a good time to reflect on the diversity of life in a prairie below ground.