On a beautiful, fall-like morning last week, a group of East Central Illinois Master Naturalists met around the tailgate of a truck at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana. Everyone was handed a pair of hand pruners and a few paper bags before heading out into the Meadowbrook prairies. Urbana Park District Natural Areas Coordinator, Matt Balk, began the day with a description of the objectives he hoped to accomplish and then lead the group off toward the first area of prairie.
Native plants offer a whole suite of ecosystems services that are often taken for granted. The faunal associations with our native flora run deep and, through this plant-animal connection, support the ecosystems of the natural world here in central Illinois. Planting native species, even on a small scale, can have a profound impact on the wildlife of Illinois if gardeners and landscapers start to adapt their designs to include more native plants.