Illinois Native Plants – 5/1

Illinois is home to hundreds of species of native plants!  A native plant to an environment is a plant that occurs naturally, or “grew up,” in that environment.  Because of our unique soils and climate, plants that are native to Illinois are able to strive and survive through our seasonal conditions, diseases, and even predatorial organisms.  They have adapted to these conditions for survival. 

There are many different plants in agriculture that rely on pollinators such as almonds, apples, pears, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, soybeans, sunflowers, and many other fruit plants.  Encouraging the growth on native Illinois plants with increase the native insects and pollinators, which is beneficial for you and me to eat the things we love!

So why are native plants so important?  Here’s a short video that explains why!

Jan Turner, from Normal, Illinois understands the importance of native plants.  Watch what she does with them!

Our read aloud book today is “The Reason For A Flower,” by Ruth Heller. What type of flowers do you recognize in this book?

We saw in the book that plants pollinate to reproduce! Plant reproduction can happen all on its own, but some plants need a little extra help whether it is from the wind or from a hummingbird.  We know all about pollinators, but how does pollination actually happen?  Try this activity to find out!

There is a lot of symbolism of flowers and plants in literature and art.  Various types of flowers and plants have historical meanings or tell stories from our ancestors or from mother nature, herself.  From monarchs to hummingbirds, native Illinois plants also provide an oasis to our Illinois critters.

With permission, take a piece of paper and pencil, head outside, and find an Illinois native plant that speaks to you.  Maybe you have never noticed it before, maybe you saw it out of the corner of your eye, or maybe it’s just a plant to you.  Try out your observation skills with this journaling activity!    

On your sheet of paper:

  • Draw your plant with some detail.  Really focus on what the plant looks like-can your draw it’s texture? What shape are the leaves?  Does it have blossoms?
    • Try to label your drawing.  If you have access to the internet, look it up for some extra help.
    • Try drawing it from a different angle.
  • Now, for 2 minutes, just observe.  Observe any interactions from both living organisms and nonliving things in the environment.
  • Shut your eyes and smell the air around you.  Listen to the sounds around you.
  • Now write what this plant symbolizes to you.  Does it have meaning?  Does it make you feel any certain way?  Does it bring back any memories?
    • You could write a paragraph, create a poem, write song lyrics, draw a comic strip, etc. 
  • Draw your symbol with that native plant.


Even though a plant is considered native to Illinois, it may not be the best fit for you’re a garden! Some plants may be too aggressive in small spaces and become invasive to your garden.  There are also some native plants that might be harmful because they are toxic or poisonous either to other plants, insects, or even you or a pet! 

Your task is to design a garden with IL native plants for your community that will be beneficial to our insects, pollinators, and soil, but will not become invasive or include toxic/poisonous plants!  What IL native plants would you use?  Where in your community would you place the garden?  Use this website to help your decision with the plant selection.

Something for Everyone

Sometimes, bees have to dig a little for their nectar gold, and sometimes they may need a nap.  Either way, who can resist these little bottoms?!

Assessment and Extended Response


  1. What are some of the products you use every day that are made from Illinois plants? (Food like corn and soybeans, medicine, bread, popcorn, brooms, pasta, rope, clothes)

*Explain how pollination happens.  Why are pollinators important for Illinois plants?


  1. What is a native plant? (A plant that originates from an area and has adapted to the conditions and relationships in that ecosystem)
  2. Why is growing native plants important? (Many organisms have adapted to those plants as a source of food or habitat.  Without those plants, the populations of the organisms will decrease which affects the entire ecosystem)

*Explain why growing non-native plants could be harmful to your garden. 

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