National Wildlife Federation – Native PlantFinder
Based on the research of Doug Tallamy, this site provides zip-code specific recommendations for native plant species that are hosts for butterflies and moths. Information is available by plant or butterfly, and personal lists can be created. Once you enter your zip code, you can find the top lepidoptera species associated with plant species (flowers and grasses, or trees and shrubs) , or vice versa.
Audubon Guide to Plants for Birds
Grow these native plants for birds
Audubon has organized the information by type of bird. The site lists the plants that are favored by certain groups of birds.
Floristic Quality Assessment Calculator
This site provides an opportunity to obtain a comprehensive analysis of all the flora on a site, and the floristic quality of each species. Floristic quality is an assessment or a rating of the conservative value of a particular species. Common plants that would grow almost anywhere would have a low number, and species that require high quality habitats would have a high number. (Up to 10.). The site will provide you with a selection of resource lists to choose from. Flora of the Chicago Region, 2017 would be an excellent choice. This selection provides the database that will be matched up with the plants you enter. Some lists won’t have as many matches as others.
Register on the site (free). http://universalfqa.org and then fill in some of the specifics about the site. (The form asks for transect info. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t affect the function.) Species can be entered by the scientific name, the acronym, or the common name. The site will take care of analyzing the data and provide a very detailed report that covers the types of species, native/non-native, conservatism-based metrics, species richness, species wetness, and plants’ life cycles (annual, perennial, biennial). You can add to your list by clicking on “edit”, or delete a species, and keep updating your information over time. If you are just getting started, you can watch the species list grow, as you add over time.
Bonap.org is a site providing distribution maps of vascular species. You can choose to see information by county or state. Many options. A list of the organizations/companies utilizing their maps is on the lower right of the landing page. You may have seen these maps on Prairie Moon’s online catalog.
Native Seed Gardeners guide to collecting seeds.
Xerces Society blog archive for Conservation Comes Home, is here. Many posts on Plants for Pollinators.
Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States
This is a link to a really excellent guide on bumblebees. Included are photos, information on preferred food plants, nesting, phenology, distribution maps, and diagrams showing color distribution of the various bumblebee species. The document is a little over 100 pages, but most of the content is graphic, and a quick read. If you are interested in learning more about bumblebees, this is a highly recommended resource.
Common Bees and Wasps of Ohio Field Guide
Excellent resource for identification of bees and wasps. Ohio source, but much information will be relevant in Chicago area.
Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative A statewide consortium of organizations dedicated to conserving the monarch butterfly. Very good site with helpful information and a variety of resources.
The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (MPGC). This project established the target of a million gardens, which has now been exceeded. Details about the MPGC are at http://millionpollinatorgardens.org
The map of the participants is on the Pollinator Partnership website at
American Bird Conservancy is one of several organizations that provide information about supporting birds. One key area of information is about preventing window strikes. This is an area of bird conservation where homeowners can make a significant difference by creating patterns on your windows.
See bird-friendly planting recommendations from Great Lakes Audubon
Partnering for Birds is an online booklet created through a partnership between Chicago Audubon Society, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and the Bird Conservation Network.
Ultraviolet View of Flowers – See them as Bees See Them
Flowers have markings that are visible under UV light that provide bees with indicators to the pollen. Fascinating. Site shows comparison of flowers under visible light and under UV light.
The Chicago Region Tree Initiative “urges you to care for trees where you live”. Some of the recommendations include checking for soil moisture, and correctly mulching the trees (not piling the mulch against the trunk).
It is a coalition of institutions, municipalities, and the tree industry. It is being administered out of the Morton Arboretum.
Recommended Book List
Tallamy, Douglas W. – Bringing Nature Home
The author makes a compelling case for the ways in which utilizing native plants in our gardens helps to sustain wildlife. The book has been called “the Silent Spring of the 21st Century” in terms of the impact it has.
Nowak, Mariette – Birdscaping in the Midwest
A guide to gardening with native plants to attract birds, this book describes 9 different habitat gardens for bringing various bird species to your home. The book is full of useful sidebars and lists.
Ladd, Doug (2 Books)
Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers
This is a Nature Conservancy field guide to flowers of the tallgrass prairie (and some of the grasses).
North Woods Wildflowers
Field guide to more than 300 wildflowers conveniently arranged by flower color for easy identification. Includes vibrant color photos and descriptions.
Tylka, Dave – Native Landscaping for Wildlife and People
This book includes tips on how each plant helps wildlife, what’s special about it, what sun/soil conditions it needs. The subtitle of the book is “How to use native Midwestern plants to beautify your property and benefit wildlife.”
Wasowski, Sally – Gardening with Prairie Plants
This book has everything you need to know to create a native prairie landscape from site evaluation to plant selection. It includes descriptions of prairie grasses as well as savanna trees and shrubs.
Johnson, Lorraine – 100 Easy-To-Grow Native Plants
This book works to provide a fail-safe guide to beautiful low-maintenance plants native to many regions. The features include: Handy profiles of each native plant, Maintenance requirements, Creative suggestions for plant pairings, Propagation and cultivation tips and more.
Czarapata, Elizabeth J. – Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest: An Illustrated Guide to Their Identification and Control
This guide includes more than 250 color photos that will help identify problem trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, sedges, and herbaceous plants. Other details of plant identification; manual, mechanical, biological, and chemical control techniques; information and advice about herbicides; and suggestions for related ecological restoration and community education efforts.
Nowakowski, Keith Gerard – Native Plants in the Home Landscape
This book includes a brief history of our area as well as gardening tips, planting plans, and information on forbs, as well as trees and shrubs.
Holm, Heather – Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants
This book illustrates the specific relationships between native pollinators and native plants. Organized by plant communities, the book profiles over 65 perennial native plants. Provides the reader with information on how to attract, plant for and identify pollinators with native plants.
Hill, Patricia – Design Your Natural Midwest Garden
This book offers a wide variety of designs for front-yard gardens, patios and terraces, borders, hillsides, woodlands and water, as well as specialty gardens whether sunny or shady. The designs are helpful and the advice practical. Photos are not the best quality but overall good resource.
Charlotte Adelman & Bernard L. Schwartz –
The Midwestern Native Garden and Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees
Two titles by Adelman and Schwartz.
These books are organized by season, with different sections explaining the non-native plants and their appearance each season. The books serve as a “Plant this, Not that” for gardening, providing alternative options to nonnative, invasive and exotic plants. The book distinguishes natives and non-natives by color-coding them. Each page shows a non-native plant, with a brief description, followed by 1-3 native alternatives, providing dense descriptions of their physical characteristics, common & Latin names, and the benefits to birds, butterflies and bees of including these plants in your garden. The books also have colorful photos or illustrations of the plants.
NOTE: Local Libraries can be excellent resources to borrow some of the pricier books such as William Cullina’s – The New England Wildflower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers in the United States and Canada.