Plant Science & Conservation

Plants of Concern Celebrates 20 Years of Community Science & Rare Plant Monitoring

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.

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The Changing Climate

fall color

...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.

But with our changing climate, what happens to that classic fall color we’ve come to know and love?

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The Changing Climate

...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.

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This Amazing Plant Changes Gender from Year to Year

Amorphophallus remains a unique occupant in the world of plants, and visitors to the Chicago Botanic Garden recently experienced the fascinating bloom cycle with the titan arum Sprout. However, there is an additional denizen of the Araceae (a.k.a. Aroid, a.k.a. Arum) family with rare and exceptional attributes, which also bloomed at the Garden.

Japanese cobra lily (Arisaema ringens) has an uncanny, serpent-shaped, flower and possesses a remarkable ability to do something that few other plants can do: change its gender from year to year.

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Pollen 101

Did you have a flashback to science class when you saw Spike, the titan arum? I sure did.

With Spike’s frilly spathe removed, Tim Pollak and Dr. Shannon Still had a rare opportunity to show the crowd the titan arum’s beautiful and astonishing inner plant parts.

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Got milkweed? Let’s apply some science

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.

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Pioneering Woodland Restoration

Tranquil, peaceful, and serene are words often associated with the McDonald Woods, which wrap around the northeastern edge of the Chicago Botanic Garden. But to Jim Steffen, senior ecologist at the Garden, the oak woodland is a bustling center for natural processes and species, and may hold answers to unsolved scientific questions.

Purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) blooms in the McDonald Woods.

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