Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Native Prairie Plants for Use Along Roadsides in Illinois

Part 1. Scientific Names A - H

Go to Part 2. Scientific Names I - Z

Developed for the Corridors for Tomorrow Project by Kenneth R. Robertson

Scientific Name

Common Name

Natural Habitat in Illinois1

Regions of Illinois Where Native2

Ultimate Height3

Pollinator Type and Insect Visitors4

Fruit Type5

Wildlife Attracted6

Special Features7

Establishment8

Adaptability8

Allium canadense

wild onion

mesic prairies; dry woods; disturbed areas

N, C, S

0.5-1.5'

Diptera

capsules with black seeds

small mammals

not competitive with grasses

moist stratification of seeds

does not favor dry or sandy areas

Allium cernuum

nodding onion

dry, mesic, wet prairies

N

1-2'

Diptera

capsules with black seeds

small mammals

not competitve with grasses

probably similar to A. canadensis

 

Allium stellatum

cliff onion

hill and gravel prairies; barrens

C, S

0.5-1'

Diptera

capsules with black seeds

small mammals

 

probably similar to A. canadensis

 

Amorpha canescens

leadplant

sand, hill, gravel, prairied; dry to mesic prairies; rocky open woodlands

N, C, S

1.5-3'

long-tongued bees (10), short-tongued bees (15), other Hymenoptera (16), Diptera (4)

small one seeded legume

butterfly larvae, bees

nitrogen fixing; attractive purple flowers and foliage

easy from scarified, innoculated, and moist stratified seed

strong survivor, deep taproot

Andropogon gerardii

big bluestem

hill, sand prairies; wet to mesic prairies; barrens

N, C, S

4-8'

wind

hairy grain

small mammals, songbirds

fall color; excellent nesting cover

easy from dry stratified seeds

prefers wet areas, but adapts well

Anemone canadensis

meadow anemone

mesic to wet prairies; open woodlands; calcareous or alluvial soils

N, C

1-2'

bees, syrphid flies

cottony plumed achene

   

very easy by division, root cuttings, or seed

large colonies form quickly

Anemone cylindrica

thimbleweed

hill and sand prairies; dry to mesic prairies; open woods

N, C

1-1.5'

bees, syrphid flies

cottony plumed achene

   

easily propagated from dry stratified seed

 

Anemone patens

pasque flower

gravel hill prairies

N

0.5-1'

bees, syrphid flies

cottony plumed achene

 

pretty spring flowers

best propagated from fresh or dry stratified seed

does not tolerate shade competition; will not tolerate water logged soil

Apocynum sibiricum

Indian hemp

dry, mesic, or wet prairies; rocky or sandy habitats; rocky woods

N, C, S

3'

long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, other Hymenoptera

follicle with hairy seeds

 

seed fluff used in bird's nests

   

Aquilegia canadensis

columbine

prairie edges; rocky woods; sandy areas

N, C, S

2'

hummingbirds

follicles with shiney black seeds

hummingbirds

beautiful orange-red flowers

easily propagated from scarified and dry stratified seeds

adapts to various habitats

Arabis glabra

tower mustard

mesic prairies; limestone woods, ledges and cliffs

N, C, S

2-4'

long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, other Hymenoptera, Diptera

slender siliques

     

rather weedy

Asclepias hirtella

tall green milkweed

dry and sand prairies

N, C, S

2'

Diptera, bees

follicles with hairy seeds

butterflies, songbirds

 

easily propagated from dry stratified seed

 

Asclepias incarnata

swamp milkweed

wet ditches, marshes, bogs

N, C, S

3-6'

Diptera, bees

follicles with hairy seeds

butterflies, songbirds

 

easily propagated from dry stratified seed

 

Asclepias sullivantii

prairie milkweed

mesic prairies

N, C, S

2-5'

long-tongued bees (12), short-tongued bees (6), other Hymenoptera (42), Diptera (8), Lepidoptera (15), Coleoptera (3)

follicles with hairy seeds

butterflies, songbirds

 

easy from dry stratified seeds

 

Asclepias syriaca

common milkweed

dry to mesic prairies; roadsides; often weedy

N, C, S

3-4'

long-tongued bees (11), other Hymenoptera (4), Diptera (3), Lepidoptera (7)

follicles with hairy seeds

butterflies, songbirds

thrives along roadsides

easily propagated from dry stratified seed

 

Asclepias tuberosa

butterfly-weed

dry or sandy prairies; savannas

N, C, S

1-2'

long-tongued bees (15), short-tongued bees (6), other Hymenoptera (12), Diptera (14), Lepidoptera (8), Coleoptera (1), Hemioptera (4)

follicles with hairy seeds

butterflies, songbirds, hummingbirds

thrives along roadside; attractive color

easy from dry stratified seedsand root cuttings

 

Asclepias verticillata

horsetail milkweed

hill prairies; dry to mesic prairies; roadsides; open soil; dry woods

N, C, S

1-1.5'

long-tongued bees (5), short tongued bees (1), other Hymeonptera (4), Diptera (1), Lepidoptera (8)

follicles with hairy seeds

butterflies, songbirds

 

transplant seedlings

 

Aster azureus

sky-blue aster

hill and sand prairies; moist to dry prairies; dry open woods

N, C, S

1-4'

long-tongued bees (10), short-tongued bees (10), other Hymenoptera (32), Diptera (16), Lepidoptera (3)

achenes with tufts of hair

songbirds, small mammals

 

easy from dry stratified seed

 

Aster ericoides

heath aster

hill and sand prairies; dry to mesic prairies; degraded prairies; colonizing species

N, C, S

1-3'

probably similar to A. ericoides

achenes with tufts of hair

songbirds, small mammals

soil forming

easy from dry stratified seed

often found along dry roadsides

Aster laevis

smooth aster

mesic to dry prairies; woods

N, C, S

1-3'

long-tongued bees (37), short-tongued bees (53), other Hymenoptera (54), Diptera (119), Lepidoptera (30), Coleoptera (6), Hemiptera (3)

achenes with tufts of hair

songbirds, small mammals

 

easy from seed

 

Aster novae-angliae

New England aster

mesic to wet prairies; degraded prairies; colonizing species

N, C, S

1-4'

probably similar to A. ericoides

achenes with tufts of hair

songbirds, small mammals

extremely aggressive

easy from seeds, moist stratification improves germination

adjusts to dry soil

Aster pilosus

hairy aster

hill and sand prairies; dry to mesic prairies; degreaded prairies; disturbed areas

N, C, S

1-4'

long-tongued bees (13), short-tongued bees (7), Diptera (11), Lepidoptera (10)

achenes with tufts of hair

songbirds, small mammals

 

probably similar to A. novae-angliae

 

Aster praealtus

willow aster

mesic prairie

N, C, S

2-4'

probably similar to A. ericoides

achenes with tufts of hair

songbirds, small mammals

 

probably similar to A. novae-angliae

 

Aster ptarmicoides

white goldenrod

hill and sand prairies; dry prairies; calcareous bluffs

N, C

1-2'

probably similar to A. ericoides

achenes with tufts of hair

songbirds, small mammals

 

probably similar to A. novae-angliae

 

Baptisia leucantha

white wild indigo

mesic to wet prairies; savannas

N, C, S

2-4'

bumble bee workers

inflated legumes with hard seeds; seeds often parasitized by Bruchid beetles

bees

soil forming; nitrogen fixing; beautiful flowers; deep taproot

easy from scarified, inoculated and moist stratified seed

sturdy plant

Baptisia leucophaea

cream wild indigo

dry to mesic prairies

N, C, S

1-2.5'

bumble bee queens

inflated legumes with hard seeds; seeds often parasitized by Bruchid beetles

bees

soil forming; nitrogen fixing; beautiful flowers; seeds often parasitized; often acts like tumbleweed

easy from scarified, inoculated and moist stratified seed

prone to wind damage; does poorly on exposed soils

Blephilia ciliata

pagoda plant

mesic prairies; woods

N, C, S

1-3'

long-tongued bees (25), short-tongued bees (16), other Hymenoptera (4), Diptera (12), Lepidoptera (15)

tiny nutlets

   

seeds may be difficult to obtain

 

Boltonia asteroides

false aster

mesic prairies; gravelly shores; along streams; roadside ditches

N, C, S

1-3.5'

long tongued bees (21), short-tongued bees (20), other Hymenoptera (12), Diptera (60), Lepidoptera (20), Coleoptera (4), Hemiptera (1)

achenes with tufts of hair

gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

     

Bouteloua curtipendula

sideoats gramma

hill prairies; dry prairies; upland sites; calcareous soil

N, C, S

1-3'

wind

hairy grain

gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals, ungulates

soil forming; forms attractive bunches; excellent nesting cover

easy from dry stratified seeds; moderately aggressive

 

Bromus kalmii

brome grass

dry to mesic calcareous prairies

N, C

1.5-3'

wind

grain

gamebirds, songbirds, samll mammals

excellent grass species; important nesting cover

very easy from seed

 

Cacalia tuberosa

Indian plantain

mesic to wet calcareous prairies

N, C, S

2-5'

hawk-moths, bees, hoverflies

achenes with tufts of hair

   

seeds may be difficult to obtain, and have low germination

 

Calystegia sepium

American bindweed

mesic soils; disturbed areas; fields; roadsides

N, C, S

3-7''

long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, other Hymenoptera, Diptera, Lepidoptera

capsules with hard seeds

       

Camassia scilloides

wild hyacinth

mesic prairies; savannas; open woods

N, C, S

1-1.5'

insects

capsules with black seeds

gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

 

easy from seed and bulbs

 

Carex annectens

sedge

mesic prairies

N, C, S

2-3'

monoecious; wind

achenes

gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

excellent nesting cover

easy from seed

 

Carex bicknellii

prairie sedge

dry to mesic prairies

N, C

1-2.5'

monoecious; wind

achenes

gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

excellent nesting cover

easy from seed

 

Carex granularis

sedge

mesic to wet prairies; bottomland woods; streambanks

N, C, S

1-2'

monoecious; wind

achenes

gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

excellent nesting cover

easy from seed

 

Carex gravida

sedge

mesic to wet prairies; swales, shores

N, C

1-3'

monoecious; wind

achenes

gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

excellent nesting cover

easy from seed

 

Carex meadii

Mead's sedge

mesic to wet prairies

N, C, S

2'

monoecious; wind

achenes

gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

excellent nesting cover

easy from seed

 

Carex molesta

sedge

moist to dry prairies; borders of woods

S

1-3'

monoecious; wind

achenes

gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

excellent nesting cover

easy from seed

 

Carex prairea

sedge

calcareous bogs and fens

C, S

1.5-3'

monoecious; wind

achenes

upland gamebirds, bees

excellent nesting cover

easy from seed

 

Cassia fasciculata

partridge pea

hill and prairies; dry, mesic, or wet prairies

N, C, S

2-3'

probably similar to C. marilandica

flat legumes with flat black seeds

upland gamebirds, bees, butterfly larvae

excellent nesting cover; nitrogen fixing

 

adapts to roadsides

Cassia marilandica

Maryland senna

dry prairies; roadsides; thickets

N, C, S

2-3'

long-tongued bees (1), ants (4), Coleoptera (1)

cylindrical legumes with plump black seeds

hummingbirds, ungulates, bees, butterfly larvae

excellent nesting cover; nitrogen fixing

 

adapts to roadsides

Castilleja coccinea

Indian paintbrush

dry, mesic, or wet prairies; usually sandy soils

N, C

1-2'

hummingbirds, insects

capsules with tiny seeds

ungulates, butterflies

parasitic associations

easy from seeds, difficult to transplant

 

Ceanothus americanus

New Jersey tea

hill and sand prairies; mesic to dry prairies; open woods

N, C, S

1.5-3'

long-tongued bees (6), short-tongued bees (18), other Hymenoptera (35), Diptera (42), Lepidoptera (2), Coleoptera (14), Hemiptera (4)

 

songbirds

important food source

low germination from seeds, improved germination from scarification, and soaked in hot water

 

Cirsium discolor

field thistle

dry to mesic prairies; fields; open woods; disturbed areas; weedy

N, C, S

3-5'

long-tongued bees (14), short-tongued bees (5), Diptera (2), Lepidoptera (9), Coleoptera (1)

achenes with tufts of hair

songbirds, butterflies

seed fluff used in nests

easy by seedling transplant

 

Claytonia virginica

spring beauty

mesic prairies; savannas; woods

N, C, S

3-5''

long-tongued bees (21), short-tongued bees (37), Diptera (35), Lepidoptera (9)

capsules with black seeds

small mammals

attractive spring flowers

easy by seed; spreads by rhizomes

 

Comandra umbellata

false toadflax

hill and sand prairies; dry to mesic prairies; open woods

N, C, S

0.5-1'

long-tongued bees (4), short-tongued bees (8), Diptera (28), Lepidoptera (2), Coleoptera (2)

small nut

 

parasitic associations; spreads by rhizomes and often forms dense stands

difficult because must be associated wih host plants

 

Coreopsis lanceolata

sand or tickseed coreopsis

hill and sand prairies; savannas

N, C, S

1-2'

probably similar to C. palmata

achenes

songbirds

little food value

easy from dry stratified seed

 

Coreopsis palmata

prairie coreopsis

hill prairies; mesic to dry prairies; open woods

N, C, S

1.5-3'

long-tongued bees (33), short-tongued bees (21), Diptera (30), Lepidoptera (14)

achenes

songbirds

little food value; often thrives along roadsides

easy from dry stratified seed, aggressive establisher

 

Coreopsis tripteris

tall tickseed

mesic to wet prariries; calcareous soil

N, C, S

3-7'

long-tongued bees (18), short-tongued bees (12), other Hymenoptera (10), Diptera (9), Lepidoptera (3), Coleoptera (1)

achenes

songbirds

flowers when not many other species are in bloom, providing pollen for pollinators

easy from dry stratified seed

 

Desmanthus illinoensis

Illinois mimosa, sensitive plant, or bundle flower

sand prairies; dry, mesic or wet prairies; along levees and railroads

N, C, S

3-6'

long-tongued bees

curved legumes

butterflies, quail, small mammals

nitrogen fixing; soil forming

easy by scarified, innoculated and stratified seed

 

Desmodium canadense

hoary tick trefoil

dry to mesic prairies; open woods

C, S

2-4'

long-tongued bees (6)

legumes broken into one seeded segments

butterflies, quail, small mammals

nitrogen fixing, soil forming, showy flowers

easy by scarified, innoculated and stratified seed

 

Desmodium illinoense

Illinois tick trefoil

dry, mesic, wet prairies; open woods

N, C, S

3-6'

long-tongued bees (7), short-tongued bees (1), Lepidoptera (1)

legumes broken into one seeded segments

butterflies, quail, small mammals

nitirogen fixing; soil forming; showy flowers

easy by scarified, innoculated and stratified seed

 

Dodecatheon meadia

shooting star

mesic prairies; woods

N, C, S

1'

long-tongued bees (8), Lepidoptera (1)

capsules with tiny seeds

small mammals, songbirds

showy spring flowers

easy by fresh or stratified seeds, and root division

 

Echinacea pallida

pale coneflower

hill prairies; dry to mesic prairies

N, C, S

2-3'

bumble bees, beetles

achenes

small mammals, songbirds

showy long lasting flowers

very easy from moist stratified seed; very aggressive

 

Echinacea purpurea

purple coneflower

mesic prairies; open woods

N, C, S

2-4'

bumble bees, beetles

achenes

songbirds, gamebirds

showy long lasting flowers

very easy from moist stratified seed; very aggressive

 

Elymus canadensis

nodding wild rye

hill and sand prairies; dry to mesic prairies; shaded bottomlands

N, C, S

2-3'

wind

grain

small mammals, songbirds

 

easy by seed

 

Eryngium yuccifolium

rattlesnake master

dry to mesic prairies; woods

N, C, S

3-4'

bees

nutlets covered with seeds

 

use cautiously because of aggressive seeding; unusual seedhead

best from transplants, but still easy from seed

drought resistent, very adaptable

Eupatorium coelestinum

mistflower

wet prairies; low woods; borders of streams

C, S

3-4'

long-tongued bees (6), short-tongued bees (5), other Hymenoptera (1), Diptera (5), Lepidoptera (8), Coleoptera (1)

achenes with tufts of hair

upland gamebirds, songbirds, butterflies

 

easy by seed, self sows

 

Eupatorium serotinum

late boneset

mesic prairies; open woods and clearings

N, C, S

3-4'

long-tongued bees (21), short-tongued bees (11), other Hymenoptera (44), Diptera (34), Lepidoptera (15), Hemiptera (1)

achenes with tufts of hair

upland gamebirds, songbirds, butterflies

 

easy by seed, self sows

 

Euphorbia corollata

flowering spurge

sand and hill prairies; dry to mesic prairies; savannas; open woods

N, C, S

2-3'

monoecious; short-tongued bees (7), other Hymenoptera (22),Diptera (21), Lepidoptera (1), Hemiptera (1)

capsules with hard seeds

upland gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

seed difficult to get

best propagated from moist stratified seeds

 

Fragaria virginiana

wild strawberry

wet to mesic prairies; woods

N, C, S

5-8''

long-tongued bees (12), short-tongued bees (15), other Hymenoptera (1), Diptera (21), Lepidoptera (7)

fleshy with tiny achenes

small mammals, songbirds, gamebirds

excellent fruit

easy from seed

 

Galium boreale

northern bedstraw

wet to mesic prairies; shores; woodland borders

N

1-2.5'

Diptera, Lepidoptera , sawflies

nutlets

   

seed or seedling transplant, needs no stratification,

readily spreads

Gaura biennis

butterfly-weed

hill prairies; dry, mesic, wet prairies; open woods; roadsides

N, C, S

3-6'

long-tongued bees (5)

nut-like

   

easy from seed

 

Gentiana alba (G. flavida)

pale gentian, yellowish gentian

mesic prairies; wooded slopes

N, C, S

1-3'

probably similar to G. andrewsii

capsules with tiny seeds

   

probably similar to G. andrewsii

 

Gentiana andrewsii

closed gentian

mesic to wet prairies; swales

N, C, S

2-3'

bumble bees, Coleoptera

capsules with tiny seeds

 

unusual blue, balloon-like flowers

easily grown from moist stratified seeds

 

Gentiana puberulenta

downy gentian

mesic to dry prairies

N, C

1-2'

bumble bees

capsules with tiny seeds

   

probably similar to G. andrewsii

 

Gentiana saponaria

soapwort gentian

sand prairies and woods; mesic prairies

N, S

1.5-4'

probably similar to G.andrewsii

capsules with tiny seeds

   

probably similar to G. andrewsii

 

Gentianella quinquefolia

stiff gentian

hill and gravel prairies; calcareous meadows and woods

N, C

1.5-2.5'

probably similar to G.andrewsii

capsules with tiny seeds

   

probably similar to G. andrewsii

 

Geum trifolium

prairie smoke

calcareous gravel hill prairies

N

1-2'

long-tongue bees (1), short-tongued bees (9), other Hymenoptera (6), Diptera (3), Coleoptera (2)

plummed achenes

 

unusual fruit; mature plants form dense stands

establish by fresh or dry stratified seeds or rhizomes

 

Helenium autumnale

sneezeweed

wet prairies; sedgemeadows; lowland woods; shors;

N, C, S

2-5'

long-tongued bees (15), short-tongued (3), other Hymenoptera (7), Diptera (4), Lepidoptera (4), Hemiptera (1)

achenes

upland gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

 

readily grown

 

Helianthus grosseserratus

sawtooth sunflower

mesic to wet prairies; degraded prairie remnants

N, C, S

6-10'

long-tongued bees (29), short-tongued bees (9), other Hymenoptera (3), Diptera (14), Lepidoptera (13), Hemiptera (1)

achenes

upland gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

important food source

easy from dry stratified seed

spreads rapidly with moisture

Helianthus mollis

downy sunflower

dry to mesic prairies; woods

C, S

2-4'

long-tongued bees (12), short-tongued bees (7), Diptera (6), Lepidoptera (2)

achenes

upland gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

important food source

easy from dry stratified seed

spreads rapidly with moisture

Helianthus occidentalis

western sunflower

sand prairies

N, C

1-3'

probably similar to H. grosseseratus

achenes

upland gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

important food source

easy from dry straified seed

spreads rapidly with moisture

Helianthus rigidus

prairie sunflower

hill prairies; dry to mesic prairies

N, C, S

3'

probably similar to H. grosseseratus

achenes

upland gamebirds, songbirds, small mammals

important food source

easy from dry stratified seed

spreads rapidly with moisture

Heliopsis helianthoides

false sunflower

open woods; dry prairies

N, C, S

2-5'

long-tongued bees (19), short-tongued bees (11), other Hymenoptera (4), Diptera (11), Lepidoptera (4)

achenes

probably similar to H. occidentalis

 

easy from seed

 

Heuchera richardsonii

prairie alumroot

hill and sand prairies; dry to mesic prairies; ledges

N, C

2-3'

bees

capsules with small seeds

upland gamebirds, small mammals

tiny seeds

from fresh or dry stratified seeds

 

Hieracium longipilum

hairy hawkweed

sand prairies; dry prairies; old fields

N, C, S

2-4'

bees, Diptera

capsules with tiny seeds

   

readily from seed

 

Houstonia purpurea

broad-leafed bluets

mesic prairies

S

0.5-3'

long-tongued bees (9), short-tongued bees (9), Diptera (9), Lepidoptera (7), Coleoptera (3)

capsules with tiny seeds

   

sometimes stubborn from seed, but once established self-sows

 

Hypericum sphaerocarpum

round fruited St. John's-wort

mesic prairies; dry woods

N, C, S

1-2'

flying insects, Diptera

capsules with tiny seeds

 

one of several species of Hypericum to consider

   

Hypoxis hirsuta

yellow star grass

hill prairies; dry, mesic, wet prairies; calcareous soil;bluff tops

N, C, S

3-7''

long-tongued bees (4), short-tongued bees (9), Diptera (2), Coleoptera (1)

capsules

 

difficult to find seeds

easy from seed

 

Click here for published references consulted for this project.

  1. Almost all species of prairie plants occur in habitats other than prairies; in this column the emphasis is on the different types of prairies in which the species occur. Information on habitat based primarily on Evers (1955); Kirt (1989); Korling (1972); Lunn (1982); Mohlenbrock (1986); Runkel & Roosa (1989); Swink & Wilhelm (1979); Voight & Mohlenbrock (1979); White (1978) as well as personal observations.
  2. Information on region based primarily on Mohlenbrock & Ladd (1978); Mohlenbrock (1986); "n" = north of Interstate 80; "c" = central, between Interstate 80 and Interstate 64; "s" = south of Interstate 64; a capital letter indicates that the species is native to that region while a lower case letter indicates that the species can be cultivated in the region although it is not native there.
  3. Information on height based primarily on Kirt (1989); Korling (1972); Lunn (1982); Mohlenbrock (1986); Runkel & Roosa (1989); Voight & Mohlenbrock (1979).
  4. All flowers perfect unless otherwise mentioned; information on pollination mostly from Robertson (1929). Perfect flowers = flowers have both female & male parts; monoecious = separate female and male flowers on the same plant; dioecious = separate female and male flowers on different plants; polygamous = a mix of perfect and/or female and male flowers on the same plant. The numbers in parentheses refer to the number of species reported visiting this species by Robertson (1929).
  5. Information of fruits largely from Fernald (1950) and personal observations by K. R. Robertson.
  6. Information on wildlife primarily based on: DeGraaf & Witman (1979); Ehrlich et al. (1988); Gill & Healy (1974); Martin et al. (1951).
  7. Information on special largely from Kirt (1989); Runkel & Roosa (1989); Voss & Mohlenbrock (1979).
  8. Information on Establishment and Adaptability mostly from McClain (1986); Rock (1979).

Go to Part 2. I - Z of this table



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