Wild columbine is in bloom this week across central Illinois

This past Saturday, we celebrated 15 new graduates of our Master Naturalist Training.  The graduation day festivities included group presentations to showcase outreach projects they worked together to develop over the past few months. There were some very well-developed projects presented and all did a great job of relating science and nature to their target audience.

Gymnosperms, like this Colorado blue spruce, are a group of nonflowering plants that emerged several hundred million years before flowering plants (angiosperms) entered the evolutionary history of the plant kingdom.

The plant kingdom has not always had the diversity we know today.  It has taken hundreds of millions of years of evolution to bring about the diverse, complex group of flowering plants known as angiosperms.  And for many millions of years prior to the emergence of angiosperms, the plant kingdom consisted of primarily of gymnosperms.  

The yellow lady’s slipper orchid is an Illinois native that can be grown in cultivation. Photo credit: Chris Benda.

Over the past 200 years or so, orchids have went from a mysterious and challenging plant, barely sustained in cultivation, to a fixture in many homes and businesses. Today, easy-care varieties of these beautiful flowering houseplants can be purchased just about anywhere, including the supermarket checkout lane.  In the last decade, plants in the orchid family have become highest selling potted plants in the US horticulture industry, exceeding the previous leader, poinsettias.