Park Forest Public Library has proven that if you build the habitat, the monarchs will come! Last year, thanks to a generous donation, the library built the beautiful Donna E. Wade Butterfly Garden right outside the windows in the children’s area. The garden is planted with a variety of perennials and annuals that serve as nectar plants. Surrounding the library there is a sea of purple coneflowers, black-eyed susans, and most importantly, milkweed, and behind the library you’ll find a diversity of native plants lining the creek. Victoria Wittig, the library’s Outreach Specialist, added an herb garden last year and a pollinator garden this year, qualifying the library as an official monarch waystation with Monarch Watch.
With the new butterfly garden last year, Victoria started a Butterfly Club to educate the children (and adults!) about the importance of pollinators, and more specifically the importance of supporting the monarch butterfly population. As most of us have heard, monarch numbers are decreasing due to habitat loss and fragmentation combined with pesticide use on lawns and farms. But, at the Park Forest library, there have been many more monarchs this year than last year! The Butterfly Club raised two monarchs last year. This year they have released 11 so far, with more than 11 more caterpillars growing in the vivarium, built by Coveside Conservation Products and donated by the Kiwanis Club. Victoria said most of the monarchs this year have been collected from the new pollinator garden, which has a combination of two milkweed species, bee balm, purple coneflower, gayfeather, Joe-Pye weed, phlox, great blue lobelia, and cardinal flower. In addition to monarchs, the club raised five generations of Black Swallowtail butterflies last year, and have begun to raise some this year as well. The swallowtails particularly like the parsley, dill, and fennel in the herb garden.
When I asked Victoria about starting this project last year, she said finding the eggs and successfully raising the caterpillars was the hardest part. But luckily there is plenty of support if you are interested in doing this in your community or in your own backyard! Kay MacNeil, the Butterfly Chairman for the Garden Clubs of Illinois, is a vocal advocate for monarchs and for growing pollinator-friendly gardens. She has a fantastic, in-depth video on you tube, in which she describes all of the steps of planting a monarch-friendly garden and raising monarchs, with many helpful tips to make your experience more successful. Victoria also recruited the help of the University of Illinois Extension office with planting for Black Swallowtails, and the Field Museum’s Keller Action Center to visit the site and identify and count milkweed on the property. Victoria also has the cooperation of the Village of Park Forest and the library in keeping native milkweed wherever it grows.
I hope Victoria and her Butterfly Club can be an inspiration to more folks wanting to make a difference in their own communities!
Citizen Science is how the public, or citizen scientists, get involved in scientific research. There are so many ways to participate, some as easy as monitoring wildlife in your own backyard. Some projects bring together data from all over the world to look at patterns on a global scale, other projects are local efforts to monitor and improve biodiversity. Summer is the best time to participate, especially for families with children!
Here are some suggestions for great ways for you to get involved with citizen science programs. You may also check out our list of citizen science programs.
1. Submit your sightings or photos
Are birds your thing? For bird data, all roads lead to eBird, a comprehensive database of bird sightings across the U.S. with an interactive map. You can submit incidental sightings, and if you really like birding, eBird allows you to track your sightings and share them with birder friends. Scientists at the Field Museum use eBird, and you can explore the data to find the best places to look for birds! Check out this birding map of downtown Chicago.
The insects are abundant in the summer, and there are many insect projects that welcome your observations! If you like to take photos, Bumble Bee Watch needs your photos of bumble bees. You can report your butterfly observations to eButterfly, a large database of butterfly sightings. Have you started hearing cicadas lately? If you see cicadas, let them know at Cicada Watch, where they are tracking the emergence of the many broods and species of cicadas, some of which only emerge every 17 years!
If you have a good squirrel story, or want to submit a photo or sighting, visit Project Squirrel. If you see any herps (frogs, toads, salamanders, lizards, etc.), submit your observations to the Herpetology Education and Research Project. Many of these projects, including iNaturalist, have mobile apps to make things even easier!
2. Monitor a Site
If you want to put in a little more effort, you can sign up to monitor chosen sites for various species of plants and animals. If you have a pond on your property, you can monitor dragonflies this summer with Dragonfly Pond Watch. City dwellers can monitor sites for birds using Celebrate Urban Birds. Have you seen any birds nesting around your home? Nest Watch collects data on nesting birds, but requires some training to avoid disturbing the birds. Project Budburst accepts data describing the timing of buds and flowers on plants in your yard or in your local park.
3. Help From Your Sofa
Do you want to help from the comfort of your home? The North American Bird Phenology Program has a collection of bird migration cards from pre-internet days that need to be transcribed into the database. Notes From Nature needs help transcribing old museum records as well. Help the Field Museum measure photos of microscopic plants at Microplants. It’s very easy, and a great way to contribute without getting sweaty and mosquito-bitten!
Upcoming Projects and Events
Help Monarch Watch collect milkweed seeds for restoration projects. Many species of milkweed are blooming now, and seeds will come soon! See these guidelines for collecting seeds in your area. Monarch Watch will send free milkweed seeds for your own larger restoration projects. Monarch Watch is also a great resource for rearing and tagging monarchs that you find on your milkweed.
Hummingbirds! See this Chicago Tribune article for hummingbird-related events in the Chicago region and get out to see these amazing birds in action! Also bird-related, every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont, IL, you can check out the bird banding station and see how field biologists are working to track and conserve our migratory bird populations!
A more comprehensive list of citizen science projects can be found here.
Various organizations, parks, or forest preserve districts will sponsor sales of native plants this spring. We list the Illinois sales by county and have added nearby Indiana and Wisconsin sales. Within county, they are listed by date of the sale. A list of nurseries that sell native plants follows.
Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee
First Sunday in May – 2017 will be May 7, at McHenry County College
Noon to 3 PM. 150 Species of forbs, grasses and ferns. Sale has enjoyed an excellent reputation for 30 years. Excellent Selection. Native trees and shrubs from Ohana Farms, plus Organic Heirloom Vegetables and Herbs from W & M Landcorp Organic Nursery available.
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County Spring Plant Sale
This is a pre-order plant sale with pick-up on May 19th-20th, 2017
4622 Dean St., Woodstock, IL 60098
Citizens for Conservation
First weekend in May, 2017 will be May 6 and 7, held on the grounds of Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. Lake County. Over 200 varieties of forbs, ferns, grasses, trees and shrubs. Pre-orders on line until April 12. Also, fall tree and shrub sale by pre-order only in August for delivery in September each year.
Lake County Forest Preserves Native Plant Sale
Saturday, May 13th, 2017 9AM-12PM
16490 Buckley Rd, Libertyville, IL 60048
Lake Forest Open Lands Go Native! Plant Sale
Saturday, May 13th, 2017 8AM-1PM
350 North Waukegan Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045
Gardeners of Central Lake County
Plant Sale May 13, 2017
Crawford Warming House
817 W. Lake Street
Libertyville IL 60048
8:30 – 11:00 am
Natives, perennials, herbs, vegetables Dug from members gardens or grown from seed
Conserve Lake County
Please check the website for details. You can order online or shop on-site from May 19 to June 3.
Lake County Master Gardeners Annual Plant Sale
Saturday, May 20, 9AM-2PM
Lake County Extension Office,
100 S. Highway 45, Grayslake, IL
Sale includes a selection of native plants.
Wild Ones: Rock River Valley Chapter – Rockford area
Constance McCarthy, President
Chapter Contact: (815) 627-0344 or Email Rock River Valley President
Please check the website for information and dates of sales.
Skokie Park District Earth Day Plant Sale
Sunday, April 23rd, 2017
4650 Brummel St, Skokie, IL 60076
Go Green Wilmette
Order online by May 5th, 2017, in-person sale and pickup May 13th, 2017
2017 Native Plant Sale Pick-up Location #1
3555 Lake Avenue, Wilmette, IL
2017 Native Plant Sale Pick-up Location #2
999 Green Bay Road, Glencoe, IL
Irons Oaks Native Plant Sale
Saturday, May 13th, 2017 9AM-12PM
20000 Western Avenue, Olympia Fields, IL 60461
Plant Chicago Native Plant Sale
Saturday, May 20, 2017. 10 AM – 2 PM
1400 West 46th Street, Chicago, IL
Hosted by Natural Communities, Native Plants
Pre-orders close on May 7.
Schaumburg Community Garden Club Native Plant Sale
Sunday, May 21st, 2017 10am-2pm
1111 E. Schaumburg Rd. Schaumburg, IL 60193
Maine East High School Ecology Club and AP Environmental Science Class
Native Perennial Plant Sale
May 29th, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
Dempster @ Dee entrance
$4.00 per plant, 45 species.
Proceeds with benefit Ecology Club and school-wide fundraiser for Prevent Child Abuse America.
Wild Ones West Cook Chapter Native Plant Sale
Order by June 7, 2017, pick up June 24th (Re-scheduled Date)
405 S Euclid Ave, Oak Park, IL 60302
Kane-Dupage Soil and Water Conservation District Native Plant Sale
Order due Monday, April 24th, 2017, Pick up May 18th
2315 Dean St, St. Charles, IL 60175
Wheaton Park District Native Plant Sale
Saturday, April 29th from 8:30AM-12PM
821 W. Liberty Dr, Wheaton, IL
DuPage Forest Preserve District Native Plant Sale
May 12th 11-7PM, May 13th 9-2
717 31st St, Oak Brook, IL 60523
Conservation Foundation Native Plant Sale
Saturday, May 13th, 2017 from 9AM-1PM
McDonald Farm, 10S404 Knoch Knolls Road, Naperville, IL 60565
Northern Kane County Wild Ones Native Plant Sale
Saturday, May 6th, 2017
28 Brookside Dr, Elgin, IL 60123
Plano Middle School Native Plant Sale
Order by May 1st, 2017, pick up May 17th or June 15th
802 S. Hale St., Plano, IL 60545
Bringing Nature Home Native Plant Sale
Saturday, May 20th, 2017 9AM-3PM
17540 W. Laraway Road, Joliet, IL 60433
Illinois Native Plant Society Kankakee Torrent Chapter Native Plant Sale
Sunday, May 21st, 2017
Small Memorial Park during Rhubarb Festival
S 8th Ave, Kankakee, Illinois 60901
Friends of Indiana Dunes Native Plant Sale
Saturday, April 8th, 2017 8AM-1PM
1215 N. State Road 49, Porter, IN 46304
Gibson Woods Wild Ones 16th Annual Native Plant Sale
Saturday, May 6th, 2017
6201 Parrish Ave, Hammond, IN 46323
Wild Ones Menomonee River Area Native Plant Sale
June 1st-30th, 2017
W180 N6275 Marcy Road, Menomonee Falls, WI 53052
Area Nurseries Selling Native Plants
*Items with asterisk are not exclusively natives, but are shown in listings of resources selling native plants. There may be additional full-service nurseries that carry some natives.
West Suburban Locations
*The Growing Place (Two Locations) NGN
Natural Garden Native brand
25 W 471 Plank Road, Naperville, IL 60563
Naperville: (630) 355-4000
2000 Montgomery Road, Aurora, IL 60504
Aurora: (630) 820-8088
NOTE: Natural Garden Natives TM (NGN) is a true native brand that represents natives sourced from within 90 miles of St. Charles. They can be purchased directly from the warehouse of Midwest Groundcovers (below). They can also be found at numerous nurseries as listed here. Look for NGN
28 West 571 Roosevelt Road
Winfield, IL 60190
No brick and mortar location. Order online and pick up on Route 25 in Batavia or at various plant sales they supply. See the website FAQs for more information.
Tel: (331) 248-1016
*Midwest Groundcovers LLC Natural Garden Natives
6N800 Illinois Route 25
P.O. Box 748 , St. Charles, IL 60174 (near Bartlett)
Tel: 847/742-1790 Fax: 847/742-2655
41W781 Route 64, St. Charles, IL 60175
Tel: (630) 584-4424 (West of Randall Road)
Byron Nursery (Wholesale only)
St. Charles, IL 60174
Linda’s Loves (charitable)
4509 Wilson Ave., Downers Grove.
Tel: (630) 971-2411 by appointment only.
Email: Linda at email@example.com
Northwest Suburban Locations
Glacier Oaks Nursery
8216 White Oaks Road
Harvard, IL, 60033
Blazing Star Nursery
2107 Edgewood Drive
Woodstock, IL 60098
Tree and Shrub Nursery in Marengo, IL
They have a selection of natives included in their stock.
Natives Haven Native Wildflower Nursery
13809 Durkee Rd, Harvard, IL 60033
Red Buffalo Nursery
10502 Seaman Rd., Hebron, IL, McHenry County
Tel: 815-648-4838 Appointment suggested.
*Pesche’s Garden Center & Flower Shop
170 S River Rd (US 45),
Des Plaines IL 60016 (map)
We are located 1 block north of Rand Rd./US 12
Call Us! 847-299-1300
Pesche’s has eliminated neonics
Their Native Plant List
South Suburban Locations
Possibility Place Nursery
7548 W. Monee-Manhattan Road, Monee, IL 60449
Tel: 708/534-3988 Fax: 708/534-6272 By appointment only.
Further Afield: Other native plant nurseries can be found through the Plant Native website, the Illinois listing is here.
Mail Order Native Plant Nurseries
Prairie Moon Nursery – highly-respected nursery with all native plants, pure species. Selling seeds, potted trays and bare root stock. About 700 Species. Online catalog, (great Plant Finder feature) or physical catalog. http://www.prairiemoon.com
Prairie Nursery – another highly-respected nursery with a long history or selling native plants. Pure species. Seeds and plants. Plant finder feature for the online catalog, or request a catalog.