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Native Plants

A plant of many colors: Virginia bluebells. Purple and blue bluebell flowers.

A plant of many colors: Virginia bluebell

With the arrival of warmer weather in the spring, we start to see signs of new life in our landscapes. Birds begin singing, our landscapes start turning green again, and spring ephemeral plants start to emerge. Among the spring ephemerals in Illinois, one of the most captivating and commonly...
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Bison and America's prairie ecosystem photo of bison eating on shortgrass prairie blue sky in above horizon

Bison and America's prairie ecosystem

This week marks the official beginning of autumn as far as our calendar is concerned but the natural world began the transition toward fall weeks ago. I recently had the pleasure of sharing a part of this transition with my son when I was able to join him on a prairie seed collection activity with...
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Tulips in the treetops: Liriodendron tulipifera text background image of tuliptree blossoms upright on tree branches with leaves

Tulips in the treetops: Liriodendron tulipifera

On a recent family vacation, I was able to revisit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As I return to places I was privileged to visit as a child, I prepare for the trip, in part, by trying to dig deep into my memory bank and recall as much as I can about the place so I can compare. I am...
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Unique blooms: rattlesnake master and buttonbush photo of white round rattlesnake master blooms against green foliate in background

Unique blooms: Rattlesnake master and buttonbush

Nature is an incredible artist and evolution has produced an overabundance of diversity. Plants in every form from spreading to climbing, vase-shaped, columnar, leaves in various shapes, colors, and arrangements. The two species featured in this article are about as opposite as plants get. One...
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Champion Trees: Winning in size and wonder large spreading tree canopy backlit by sun green foliage

Champion Trees: Winning in size and wonder

Illinois Extension is a resource available for all community members. We work hard to help residents find answers to burning questions, and solutions to challenges, and keep current on industry and university research. We provide education and outreach through a variety of outlets- this article is...
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Trillium: Good things come in threes group of white trillium blooming on woodland floor

Trillium: Good things come in threes

In my last blog post, I shared my affection for bloodroot and boldly claimed that “among the myriad of spring blooms, few thrill me as much as Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).” That sentiment was sincere, however, I must confess that there are others that are equally as exciting. This...
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When should I clean up my garden? Picture of a garden with brown native bunch grasses and brown fallen tree leaves.

When should I start cleaning up my garden?

As the days get longer and the temperatures start to warm, we often get the itch to start gardening. On the first warm day of the year, I often find myself thinking I need to be doing something in the garden because it’s so nice out. However, we shouldn’t be in too big of a hurry to start cleaning...
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Are my seeds still good? Testing seed germination. White paper towel with small green seedlings emerging from black seeds

Are my seeds still good? Testing seed germination

Have you ever found a packet of seeds lying around and wondered if you could grow them? Every year when I get ready to start seeds, I inevitably find a half-full packet or a packet I forgot to plant altogether. Unfortunately, as seeds get older, their germination rate decreases. Fortunately, there...
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Ethnobotany: the power of plants and people background image woven baskets with native fruits and nuts including walnuts

Ethnobotany: The power of plants and people

Plants have played a major role in human development for as long as people have inhabited the earth. Human interaction with plants has been and continues to be a complex relationship. Many species have provided critical resources for sustaining life, while others threaten human harm if encountered...
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Autumn allergies: don’t blame goldenrod bee on yellow goldenrod bloom

Autumn allergies: don’t blame goldenrod

As the growing season draws to an end, temperatures cool, woody plants prepare for dormancy, and we enjoy the last blooms of the season. For many of us, autumn also means sniffles and sneezes caused by seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies are a reaction to airborne pollen entering the body and...
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blackcapped chickadee with a caterpillar in it's mouth

Attracting wildlife with native plants

Invite nature into your backyard A parent fed up with their child’s persistent use of technology (internet, video games, tablet, you name it!) has decided to pull the plug on their sedentary habits. They strip the devices from their child’s hands and throw them outside and say “Go play!” The child...
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Add some fireworks to your garden this Fourth of July. Pink flowers of nodding onion.

Add some fireworks to your garden this Fourth of July

The Fourth of July holiday often includes parades, barbeques, and fireworks. Fireworks often fill the night sky with their colorful, albeit fleeting displays. The fireworks don’t have to be restricted to the Fourth, though. Whether it be their color, flower shape, or name, a number of plants can...
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developing hazelnuts

Hazelnuts: A native plant is a new crop for Illinois

You’ve likely heard of hazelnuts, perhaps even used them in some delightful dessert or savory dishes and garnishes. If you give my children a choice between peanut butter or a chocolaty hazelnut spread, the peanut butter jar remains unopened. About 40 percent of global hazelnut production goes into...
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Spring brings spring beauties to the landscape - a clump of blooming spring beauty plants in turf

Spring brings spring beauties to the landscape

Have you ever noticed small white flowers dotting the landscape this time of year? Chances are they’re spring beauties (Claytonia virginica). While they may not be the first wildflowers to bloom, spring beauties are one of our earlier blooming wildflowers and a sure sign that spring has...
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picture of cranberry plants and ripe cranberry fruit


Cranberries are a common sight this time of year. Americans consume nearly 400 million pounds of cranberries per year, and we consume about 20 percent of that during Thanksgiving week! Whether you eat them fresh, dried, as sauce or jellied or drink them, they are staples at many holiday meals. They...
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Spooky and Scary plants with doll's eyes plant berries

Spooky and Scary Plants

Halloween is a time of trick-or-treating, witches, ghouls, and ghosts. When it comes to plants, we typically think of pumpkins. Carnivorous plants may also come to mind, what could be scarier than a plant turning the tables and eating insects? There are plenty of other ‘spooky and scary’ plants out...
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