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The Tallgrass Prairie of Illinois

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About this time of the year I get a severe itch, and no I’m not talking about the kind you get in your eyes from all the pollen, it’s the itch to get outside. It’s the itch to explore what our beautiful state has to offer. And while we don’t have dusty red mountain ranges or lakes made of salt, Illinois is home to one of the most remarkable ecosystems in the United States, the tallgrass prairie.

Black Eyed Susan

Mid-July Yellow Coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata)

In 1840, Eliza Steele remarked of the Illinois prairie, “A world of grass and flowers stretched around me, rising and falling in gentle undulations, as if an enchanter had struck the ocean swell, and it was rested forever.” The world seemed to have dropped off just beyond her line of vision.

Today, most of Illinois’ tallgrass prairies are gone, however, in late July and August the remaining prairies are in full bloom and big bluestem, Indian grass, prairie blazing star and purple coneflower tower over the Midwestern landscape.

Prairie Blazing Star Group    Prairie Blazingstar

Mid-July Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya)

As it turns out, Kane County is home to a vast array of prairies, wetlands and woodlands. So, if you’re looking for something to do to cap off your summer, go explore some of Illinois’ untouched wilderness.

Learn more and explore:

Click here to find a preserve in Kane County

Click here for a list of Illinois Prairie Wildflowers

Prairie: A Natural History by Candace Savage

“The North American prairies are among the most altered environments on Earth. Detailed and scientifically up-to-date, this comprehensive guide introduces readers to the biology and ecology of this fabled environment, offering a view of the past, a vision for the future, and a clear focus on the present.”



Tallgrass Prairie Book JacketTallgrass Prairie by John Madson

“This book captures the grace and beauty of America's remaining tallgrass prairie with compelling photography and colorful narrative.”




Sources: A Field Guide to the North American Prairie by Stephen Jones

All photos courtesy of the author.