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Virtual map provides a tool for rain garden stewardship

Screen capture of a website showing a red blooming flower next to a digital map showing its location in the Red Oak Rain Garden

URBANA, Ill. – When caring for a rain garden, one of the most helpful tools may not be a rake or a pruner, but a map. The Red Oak Rain Garden interactive map shows the layout of the garden’s native plant placement. This makes maintenance easier and also helps visitors learn about the native plants.

The Red Oak Rain Garden is a 10,000-square-foot demonstration landscape that prevents flooding on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. The new online map, available at, displays how the nearly 60 different native plant species are organized in the garden as well as photos and plant details such as growing conditions and habits.

“Some native plants can look similar to weeds when they emerge from the ground, leaving the garden’s caretakers unsure of what to take out,” says C. Eliana Brown, water quality and stormwater specialist with University of Illinois Extension and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. “This map removes uncertainty by letting volunteers know what is intentional so they can weed out what isn’t. The map can be accessed on a mobile device giving the gardeners access to information at the rain garden when they need it most.”

Rain gardens help absorb and filter rainwater runoff instead of allowing it overwhelm sewer systems and contribute to flooding. Before the Red Oak Rain Garden was installed, pedestrians avoided the flooded sidewalks between Allen Hall and McKinley Health Center at UIUC. Now, this sustainably designed landscape can soak up to 27,000 gallons of water from the area while also providing wildlife habitat, a beautiful green space, and an educational opportunity.

“We hope that the map can help dispel the idea that rain garden maintenance is difficult, allowing other rain gardens to be built,” says Layne Knoche, Illinois Extension Visiting Outreach Associate.

Illinois Extension intern Piper Siblik built the map with guidance from Brown, Knoche, and rain garden volunteers, who provided feedback.

Illinois Extension and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant staff direct and manage the garden. Champaign County Master Gardeners, East Central Illinois Master Naturalists, and student groups and classes volunteer in the garden to provide continuing education for community members and visitors.

Explore more about how to tour the Red Oak Rain Garden, apply rain garden practices at home, and more at

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences.