Flowering plants support birds in many ways. They produce seeds that birds eat. They provide nectar for insects that, in turn, provide nourishment for birds. Larger plants provide birds with places to shelter. Of course, flowering plants also provide enjoyment for people who work in or walk by the bird sanctuary.
Our goal is to have only plants native to the Great Lakes region. All flowering plants we intentionally add to our site are natives--and sometimes native species just show up, brought to the site by wind or water or even by birds.
Some plants that show up are invasives. Many of these are native to Eurasia rather than North America, and they can cause problems for our bird sanctuary.
This weird- looking annual just appeared in a sandy area one day. It took a while to figure out what it was, but we are happy to have it.
A surprise find in the summer of 2017, this short-lived biennial has reseeded itself and come back in the same parts of the bird sanctuary each year
This relative of the Common Milkweed has groups of bright orange flowers at the end of its branches. It attracts several insect and bird species, including monarch butterflies.
Monarch caterpillars feed on the leaves of this tall plant. The pink flowers develop into large seed pods, and the seeds are then disperses by the wind.
Also called Spotted Bee Balm, this plant grows well in sandy areas. The leaves and flowers provide a lovely collection of colors: yellow, pale pink, lavender, and white.
We added this plant in summer 2018. It does best in sunny locations and attracts lots of bees as well as butterflies with long tongues.
We discovered this beauty when we were here watching a solar eclipse! We were delighted to see that it has reseeded itself and returned each year.
Flowers on this plant bloom from top to bottom throughout the blooming season. Small colonies can develop from a mother plant. We enjoy the colorful array of butterflies it attracts.
This plant is said to be uncommon in Illinois. It provides welcome early-spring color for walkers and bikers along the path near the bird sanctuary.
The purple flowers on this plant open during the morning and close by the evening in sunny weather. They stay open longer on cloudy days!
This prolific “volunteer” (that is, a plant that came on its own) can be seen throughout our sandy areas, even twining up some of our shrubs.
This annual loves our harsh environment. We call it Illinois Tumbleweed because that is what it resembles in the fall and winter. It is a gorgeous purple in the fall.
We plant flowering species that we want to grow in the bird sanctuary. Others appear without our help. When we spot a new species, sometimes we are thrilled, but sometimes not. For example, a new plant may crowd out other plants that are beneficial for birds and insects.
Some unwanted plants are native to the Midwest but are highly aggressive. Others were imported for ornamental gardens or for other uses, but can cause problems in our habitat. We call all these unwanted plants "invasive." Once we identify them, we can work to remove or control them.
Here are some invasive flowering plants that have appeared at the bird sanctuary.
This plant resembles clover and produces clusters of small yellow flowers each spring. It was brought to North America from Eurasia and can now be found throughout Illinois.
This persistent perennial, also called Soapwort, can be used to make soap. It has a beautiful flower, but it spreads aggressively via a connected root system and extensive seed production
Brought to North America as an ornamental plant because of its attractive flowers, this plant escaped from people’s gardens. It spreads easily--even where it’s not wanted.
This early spring plant, considered a bane in many forested areas, grows in the wooded north section of the bird sanctuary. Some volunteers take it home to eat!
The leaves and flowers of this annual plant can be used as an herb, sautéed, or used in salads. The young seedpods can be used as a substitute for black pepper.
This clover, which blooms in its second year, is relatively easy to pull. If we can remove these plants before they produce flowers, we can greatly reduce the population.