Plant Science & Conservation

Splendor in the Tallgrass

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.”

Summer Bloom Highlight: The Prairie Rose

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.

Hidden Gems of the Prairie

Pondering the Prairie Series Did I mention Gentian? If I didn’t, I should have. These are the stars of the autumn prairie. If you're lucky, you may stumble upon a prairie gentian ​(Gentiana puberulenta). You’ll find them among the myriad of pale blues, whites, and violets of the dominant fall asters, many of them blooming throughout October. Look for bottle and cream gentians in the Garden’s Dixon Prairie or elsewhere.

Rudbeckia—How Sweet It Is!

Pondering the Prairie Series Black-eyed Susans are among the most recognizable and beloved wildflowers, but there are a few things you may not know about them. For one thing, there are several wild species of Rudbeckia growing in the region and several cultivars with bigger and/or fancier flowers that have been developed for people’s gardens.