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Plant Science & Conservation

Surprise: A Rare Local Plant Returns

Persistence can be a good trait for prairie plants. Take this tale of the return of the Hill’s thistle (Cirsium hillii) to the Dixon Prairie at the Chicago Botanic Garden.I’m the assistant ecologist for the natural areas at the Garden. While managing some tall vegetation on the gravel hill of the Dixon Prairie in summer 2016, I noticed something I have not seen in a while. It was a thistle!

The Surprising Science Behind Hummingbirds and Flowers

Fast and graceful, hummingbirds flit from flower to flower—but which ones and why? A Chicago Botanic Garden scientist and his collaborators recently made some unexpected findings on the subject.It’s a common perception that plants are perfectly matched to their pollinators and that each pollinator has a specific flower type that they are attracted to. For hummingbirds, many gardeners and scientists alike have long assumed their flower type to be one that is strikingly red, tubular, and scentless.

Trees for 2050

A living museum presents special challenges to its curators.At the Chicago Botanic Garden, we not only acquire and display our collections, but we must also keep them alive and healthy. As curator of the Garden’s collection of woody plants, I’m responsible for the welfare of more than 13,000 trees. Disease, infestations, and extreme weather events are the kinds of things that keep me awake at night.