NE Illinois tallgrass prairie plants


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    Prairie cinquefoil is typically found in high quality habitats, rather than disturbed areas.
  • Prairie dock is a typical mesic balck soil prairie plant with an impressive and unusual appearance. It has a vase-like rosette of large spade-shaped basal leaves that have a sandpapery texture. It has a naked stalk 3-10 feet in height that divides into a panicle of yellow composite flowers. Prairie dock blooms for a month in the late summer to early fall. It has a stout taproot that can penetrate the soil up to 12 feet. Its flattened achenes can be carried several feet away by the wind and forms offsets a short distance from the mother plant. It prefers full sun, deep loamy soil, and moist to slightly dry conditions. It tolerates gravely or rocky soil and has a very good tolerance to drought. Its range is throughout most of Illinois with exceptions in northwest Illinois and a few counties of southern Illinois. Prairie dock inhabits savannas, seeps, limestone glades, alongside roads and railways and in a variety of prairies including dry black soil, gravel, shrub, hill, and remnant prairies. It is a common, long lived, slow developing plant that when mature is reliable and nearly indestructible. The height of the flowering stock keeps the flowers above the tall grasses. It is also very good at recovering from occasional wildfires. Its flowers attract long-tonged bees, Halictine bess, bee flies, and hummingbirds. Grubs feed on the taproot. Beetles feed on the flower heads and stems. Wasp larvae feed on the flowering stem and form invisible galls. Cattle and American bison feed on the foliage and stems of prairie dock.
  • Rudbeckia hirta is a biennial forb that grows to a height of approximately 1m. Black-eyed Susan readily establishes itself in disturbed areas, and it recovers moderately from fires.
  • Native species growing from branched creeping rhizomes.
  • Ragweed is an annual, native plant that can reach heights of 1 meter with frequent branches. It merges in the late spring and seeds in the late summer or fall season. The male ragweed plant produces a fine pollen that is often carried by the wind. Ragweed produces numerous seeds that remain viable for up to five years. It has an extensive fibrous root system. It prefers full sun and average to slightly dry conditions. It is very common in Illinois and is disturbed in almost every county in the state. It is found in disturbed areas especially along margins near developed areas, as weeds in gardens and lawns, within cropland, in abandoned fields, vacant lots, fence rows, and alongside roads and railways. Its native habitat includes hill prairies, gravel prairies, meadows in woodland areas, and at the edges of gravelly steeps. Ragweed has become invasive in Europe and Japan. The seed viability is why Ragweed is persistent and aggressive. It is also a very competitive weed in which several herbicides prove effective although resistant populations do exist. Ragweed is utilized by a variety of wildlife, including honeybees, moth caterpillars, grasshoppers, game birds and songbirds, meadow voles, prairie voles and the thirteen lined ground squirrel.
  • Bidens aristosa is tolerant of disturbance. It is not palatable to animals, produces a high number of seeds, has high seedling vigor, and has a rapid growth rate. This species has several common names, including swamp marigold.
  • The rhizomes from bee balm plants can remain viable evan after earth-moving and bulldozing operations, and sprout plants in unexpected places.
  • While this plant can form sizable clumps, it doesn't spread as aggressively by means of underground rhizomes like other sunflower species. Rosinweed is rarely bothered by disease and is easy to grow. It matures more quickly than many other members of the same genus. Its tolerance for disturbance is relatively high.
  • Silphium laciniatum is a perennial herbaceous plant similar in appearance to a sunflower, growing to 1-4 m tall, with bristly-hairy stems. It is native to east-central North America. This plant often co-occurs with Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem). Habitats include sand prairies, savannas, glades, and areas along railroads. Compass Plant is fairly common throughout most of Illinois, except in the SE and scattered western counties. This plant easily recovers from occasional fires and does well in mildly disturbed areas. It does take several years for a seedling to develop into a fully mature adult plant.
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    Habitats include degraded meadows, vacant lots, and sunny areas along roads and railroads. Dandelion is seldom successful invading high quality natural habitats, instead preferring disturbed and degraded open areas caused by human activities.
  • Common mountain mint may thrive when other prairie species are eliminated by grazing.
  • Stiff gentian is an annual or biennial wildflower approximately ½ to 2 feet tall. Small plants are unbranched or sparingly branched while large plants have frequent lateral stems. It has a taproot root system. It has long tubular shaped flowers that may be cross-pollinated by long-tongue bees. It reproduces by reseeding itself but does not spread vegetativley. It blooms from late summer to mid-fall and lasts approximately 1-2 months. The flowers are blue-violet in the fall and Stiff Gentian is one of the last species to remain in bloom. All flowers are replaced by a seed capsule that divides into 2 pieces that release a large quantity of tiny seeds. The seeds are distributed by wind and water. It prefers full sun to light shade, somewhat barren soil, and moist to dry conditions. Moisture and nutrient availability causes considerable variation in individual plant size and flower abundance. It is found occasionally in the northern half of the state but is rare or absent in southern Illinois. Natural habitats include hill prairies, upland savannas, thinly wooded slopes, rocky meadows, stream banks in wooded areas, calcareous seeps and cliff edges. It is usually found in high quality areas void of disturbance, often where limestone is close to the ground surface. It is believed that populations of Stiff Gentian are declining.
  • Prairie alum root is a native perennial plant with a rosette of 3-5 inch, palmatley lobed, hairy, orbicular or slightly cordate shaped basal leaves. The 2-4 foot stems are without leaves with straight white hairs. Each stem terminates in a narrow panicle of green flowers. It has a central root stock that is stout and short dividing into coarse roots. It blooms for approximately one month during the early summer. The wind disperses the tiny unwinged seeds that develop in small capsules. The flowers are pollinated by small bees. There is no certain relationship of this plant to mammals and the seeds are too small for the birds to be interested. Prairie alum root prefers light shade to full sun, mesic to dry conditions, and rocky soil. Once the plant becomes established it is easy to grow. There are significant variations in characteristics of this plant with a vide variety across different localities. Prairie alum root occurs occasionally in 2/3 of northern Illinois and is rare or absent in the southern part of the state. It inhabits upland areas of black soil prairies, hill prairies, gravel prairies, sand prairies, limestone glades, and rocky upland woodlands. Prairie alum root generally favors poor rocky soil areas where competition from taller plants is reduced.
  • This plant can establish itself in both disturbed and high quality areas, sometimes forming large colonies that can exclude other species.
  • A native woody shrub. Grows in moist to dry prairie edges. Favors disturbed, burned-over edges. Is one of the shrubby prairie invaders

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