Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Kenneth R. Robertson

Welcome to Ken Robertson's homepage!

Note: I retired June 30, 2008! However, I will still have my office at the Illinois Natural History Survey and plan to come in regularly. However, it may take me longer to respond to e-mails, and I may forward some inquiries on to other INHS staff.


I am a botanist with the Illinois Natural History Survey. Professionally, I am a plant systematist (taxonomist), which means that I study how plants are classified and related to each other. I am also interested in natural areas in Illinois, especially prairies, and in botanical gardens and arboreta. The photograph on the right was taken by my daughter Amanda in a prairie. The plants with the large leaves are called "Prairie Dock;" the Latin name is quite a mouthful: Silphium terebinthinaceum, which belongs to the sunflower family (Asteraceae or Compositae) The background on my homepage is based on a color slide of the leaves of Prairie Dock and of Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum.

Here are quick links to webpages that I have developed or made significant contributions.

  • The Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois <>
  • Images of Prairie Plants <>
  • Fruits, Seeds, and Seedlings of Prairie Plants <>
  • The Herbarium of the Illnois Natural History Survey (ILLS) <>
  • Planning With Plants in Illinois: The Nature Preservation Movement <>
  • Corridors for Tomorrow project [not an active project] <>
  • Links for Using Native Plants in the Landscape<>
  • Rosaceae page <>
  • Digital Flowers <>
  • Plant Systematics Course at University of Illinois <>
  • Newsletter for American Society of Plant Taxonomists <> — click "Newsletter" in the box on the left of the main window

  • I am an avid photographer and take many photographs of plants, nature, and gardens. A few digitized images can be accessed below.

  • Address
  • Education
  • Personal Backbround
  • Professional Experience
  • University Affiliations
  • Research
  • Funding of Research
  • Publications
  • Seminars & Presentations
  • Committies & Such
  • Professional Societies
  • Teaching
  • Sample Photographic Images
  • Photographs of Plants
  • Slides of the Island of Madeira
  • Links about Prairies
  • Planning with plants in Illinois
  • Species of Native Plants for Planting along Roadsides
  • Species Lists for Illinois Plants
  • Poison Ivy and Wild Parsnip
  • Other Links
  • A list of html codes for other languages and symbols


    Kenneth R. Robertson, 
    Illinois Natural History Survey
    607 East Peabody Drive
    Champaign, IL 61820 USA

    Due to budget cuts, my office phone has been disconnected and it is best to contact me by e-mail. However you may leave a message with a secretary at 217 333-6830




    Ph.D., Botany, Washington University and the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, 1971
    M.A., Botany, University of Kansas, 1967.
    B.A., Botany, University of Kansas, 1965


    Born, Detroit, Michigan 
    Reared in Republic, Missouri (Greene County, southwest of Springfield)
    Married, Arlene S. Robertson, née Shafer
    Daughter, Amanda S. Robertson



    1971-1976, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Assistant Curator
    1976-1980, Illinois Natural History Survey, Assistant Botanist
    1980-1984, Illinois Natural History Survey, Associate Botanist
    1984-present, Illinois Natural History Survey, Botanist


    1982-present, University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, Department of Plant Biology, Member of the Graduate Faculty


    My research specialty is plant systematics (taxonomy). I am especially interested in the classification and evolutionary relationships of the rose family (Rosaceae), especially the apple subfamily (Rosaceae subfamily Maloideae), the pigweed family (Amaranthaceae), and the genus Jacquemontia of the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae). I am also interested in the preservation of natural areas in Illinois and rare and endangered species. Several recent projects have involved hill prairies in Illinois.


    Funding for my research comes from a variety of grants and contracts.

    Click here to see a list of grants and contracts.


    I have published quite a number of journal articles and report (click below on the appropriate category to see a list). 

    I am a co-author of a book published in 1995 entitled "Illinois Wilds," which has 160 color photographs as well as text describing 15 different major habitats in Illinois; it was published by Phoenix Press but is now distributed by the University of Illinois Press.


    Each year, I spend considerable time conducting field work in natural areas in Illinois, and I give frequent presentations on the state's native plants, prairies, natural areas, and plant photography. I also give presentations about some of my travels to other parts of the United States, England, the island of Madeira, Jamaica, and Brazil.

    For many of these talks I use two slide projectors to project two images side by side or click here for two more images side by side.

    Here is the projector setup that I normally use for presentations. This consists of two 35mm slide projectors that project two images side-by-side on a large screen.

    Click here to see a list of presentations given since 1994.


    It seems that I am always on too many committees, but here are a few current ones. I serve as a consultant to the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and am a member of the Technical Advisory Committee for Plants to the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board. At the University of Illinois, I am a faculty advisor to the International Agriculture Students Association, a member of the Access Advisory Committee at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and am on the Advisory Committee on International Student Affairs under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.






    Each spring semester I regular co-teach a course entitled:

    "Systematics of Flowering Plants", Integrative Biology 335

    with Stephen R. Downie, at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign



    A neat project entitled Grocery Store Botany, which was prepared by Britt Wilms, a student in PB260


    Note: I retired June 30, 2008! However, I will still have my office at the Illinois Natural History Survey and plan to come in regularly. However, it may take me longer to respond to e-mails, and I may forward some inquiries on to other INHS staff.

     Please e-mail your comments to


    Updated: 30 June 2008

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