Illinois, also known as the Prairie State, is home to many wildflowers. In the spring and summer, Illinois’s prairies, woodlands, and meadows come alive with vibrant colors. From the iconic Purple Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans that adorn the roadsides to the delicate blooms of Virginia Bluebells nestled in woodlands, Illinois offers a beautiful wildflower variety. This article discussed fourteen wildflower species you can find in Illinois.
14 Wildflowers in Illinois
The Violet, with its lovely shades of purple, is the officially designated state flower of Illinois since 1908. This tough little plant can thrive in various conditions and blooms from spring to early summer, adding a dash of color to the state’s landscapes.
Illinois isn’t all about violets, though. Come spring, you’ll find fields dotted with Spring Beauties and Red Trilliums. The sunny months of summer invite a burst of color with Butterfly Weeds and Prairie Sunflowers. As the season turns to fall, the landscape becomes a canvas for New England Asters and Goldenrods. These wildflowers, spread across the state, contribute to Illinois’ diverse natural beauty.
1. Purple Coneflower
Scientific Name: Echinacea purpurea
During the summer months, the purple coneflower displays its pink-purple petals and prominent spiky orange-brown cone in the center. This perennial plant grows up to 3.5 feet tall and attracts many pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. For centuries, Native American tribes have used this plant for medicinal purposes.
2. Black-eyed Susan
Scientific Name: Rudbeckia hirta
The black-eyed Susan is a cheerful-looking, yellow flower with dark brown or black centers. This flower blooms from June to September and the green stems have white hairs on them. The black-eyed Susan can be found in prairies, meadows, and roadsides throughout every county in Illinois.
3. Common Milkweed
Scientific Name: Asclepias syriaca
The Common milkweed is a perennial plant that grows between 2 and 6 feet tall. This plant likes full sun, but they are fairly hardy so can survive in many different conditions.
Blooming from June to August, common milkweed displays pink to reddish-purple flowers. Common milkweed is important to Illinois’ ecosystem because it supports the lifecycle of the Monarch butterfly.
4. Wild Bergamot
Scientific Name: Monarda fistulosa
Also known as bee balm or horse mint, wild bergamot has vibrant lavender to pink flowers and a pleasant fragrance. It’s a perennial plant and a member of the mint family.
It has lavender or pink petals surrounding a light green center. Wild bergamot gives off a scent similar to oregano and blooms from mid-summer to early fall.
5. Virginia Bluebell
Scientific Name: Mertensia virginica
The Virgina bluebell is a common wildflower in Illinois and can be found nearly statewide. This plant is known for its long leaves that can grow up to 7 inches long and tubular, bell-shaped flowers.
The buds can range in color from pink and purple to blue, but when the flowers bloom, they are almost always blue. The flowers feature 5 white stamens in the center and can be found blooming in Illinois from mid to late spring.
6. Shooting Star
Scientific Name: Dodecatheon meadia
The shooting star is a unique looking flower that sits atop a long green or red stalk. The flowers consist of white petals that arch upward from a yellow cone. These plants can grow up to 1.5 feet tall and each stalk can have between 6 and 40 flowers on them.
7. Wild Geranium
Scientific Name: Geranium maculatum
The Wild geranium is a delicate perennial herb with dainty pink to lavender flowers and intricately lobed leaves. Each flower has five petals with rounded tips.
It thrives in rich, moist, and shaded habitats, like woodlands, forests, and along stream banks. Wild geranium blooms from late spring to early summer in Illinois, peaking in May.
8. Woodland Phlox
Scientific Name: Phlox divaricata
Found in woodlands and shaded areas around Illinois, woodland phlox blooms from April to June. The star-shaped flowers are made up of 5 flat petals that range in color from light blue-violet to pink to white. Its sweet, pleasant fragrance and nectar-rich blooms attract various pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds
9. Purple Stemmed Tickseed
Scientific Name: Bidens connata
Purple stemmed tickseed blooms each summer in Illinois. It grows between 1 and 4.5 feet tall and displays a cluster of yellow to orange, tube-shaped flowers that grow from a disk floret.
Although the stems of these flowers are sometimes green, many have a distinctive purple stem. This wildflower is most common in the northern half of the state, preferring habitats with wet soil.
10. Prairie Smoke
Scientific Name: Geum triflorum
The Prairie smoke is an odd looking flower that grows in northern parts of Illinois. The flowers of emerge as nodding, bell-shaped structures with pinkish or reddish petals.
After pollination, they transform into seed heads with long, feathery, and silver-gray awns, resembling smoke or wisps of hair. Prairie Smoke blooms from late spring to early summer, with its peak flowering period being from May to June in Illinois.
11. Compass Plant
Scientific Name: Silphium laciniatum
The compass plant is a very tall wildflower in Illinois that can grow up to 12 feet tall. It has a thick green central stem covered in white hairs.
The compass plant produces bright yellow flowers with light brown centers that sort of look like small sunflowers. It thrives in areas with full sun like black soil prairies and tall grasslands in Illinois.
12. Wild Columbine
Scientific Name: Aquilegia canadensis
The Wild columbine blooms from late spring to early summer in Illinois. The flowers of wild columbine are unique and instantly recognizable.
They have five red or orange-red petals with long, backward-curving spurs and bright yellow stamens in the center. The shape of the flowers looks like a flock of birds grouped together.
13. Blazing Star
Scientific Name: Liatris pycnostachya
The Prairie Blazing Star thrives in tallgrass prairies, open meadows, and along the edges of wetlands throughout Illinois. Blooming from midsummer to early fall, this plant has tall, slender spikes of purple flowers. The prairie blazing star is quite tall, growing between 3 and 5 feet.
14. Wild Lupine
Scientific Name: Lupinus perennis
The Wild lupine blooms from late spring to early summer in Illinois and features a tall light green or reddish stem. Vibrant purple-blue flowers grow along the length of the flowering stalks, which can be up to 2.5 feet tall.
Wild lupine is an important host plant for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly, which relies on the flower as a food source for its larvae.
When and Where to Find Wildflowers in Illinois
Finding wildflowers in Illinois depends on the region and time of year. In the early spring, woodland and other shady areas come alive with spring wildflowers like Virginia bluebells and trilliums.
As summer nears, the prairies burst into vibrant displays of purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and butterfly weed. If you visit nature preserves, state parks, and other protected areas, you can find a diverse array of wildflowers in the beautiful state of Illinois.