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New Book Catalogs Chicagoland Plants, Insect Interactions

Laura Anchor with President Toni Preckwinkle and General Superintendent Arnold Randall.
Laura Anchor with President Toni Preckwinkle and General Superintendent Arnold Randall.

From beginning to end, Forest Preserves of Cook County Wildlife Biologist Laura Rericha-Anchor spent more than 15 years working on her new book “Flora of the Chicago Region: A Floristic And Ecological Synthesis.” Co-authored with Dr. Gerould Wilhelm, director of research at The Conservation Research Institute, the book is a thorough look at the plant communities within Chicagoland and beyond, detailing nearly 3,200 plant species and documenting the delicate, yet powerful world of plants, their pollinators, and the environment.

Rericha-Anchor has worked for the Forest Preserves since 1997, and in that time, she has served an important role in protecting and preserving the plants and animals of the Forest Preserves. Through exploration, research and documentation, her contribution to the Forest Preserves’ restoration efforts and the health of the region’s plant and animal communities is invaluable.

“Flora of the Chicago Region” was inspired by the book “Plants of the Chicago Region,” which was originally published in 1969 by Floyd Swink, a renowned taxonomist and naturalist, with the most recent edition published in 1994. Floyd Swink previously mentored both Rericha-Anchor and Wilhelm.

Here are some important facts about the new book:

  • The book includes plants from across 22 counties in four states: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
  • During the course of their fieldwork, Rericha-Anchor and Wilhelm discovered a new plant species.
  • The book documents hundreds of discoveries regarding plant-insect interactions.
  • “Flora of the Chicago Region” recognizes several plant species that are only found in the Chicago region.
  • Of the 3,149 identified plants in the book, 1,876 are considered native and 1,273 are considered non-native.
  • The book includes 10 plant species described new to science since 1994.

According to Doug Ladd, director of conservation for the Missouri Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, “Flora of the Chicago Region” is “astounding, and will set a new standard for both floras and the context in which people look at and think about plants as components of a system.”

Books like “Flora of the Chicago Region” are important for a variety of reasons. According to Rericha-Anchor, this type of research helps us define where species live so we can better understand how to manage plant populations that are extremely rare.

“High-quality native plant species occur in remnants or in well-managed forest preserves, whether it be a prairie, savanna, woodland or wetland” explains Rericha-Anchor. “The more that we learn about plants, their animal associates, and the habitats in which they occur, the better we can manage our remnant landscapes throughout the region.”

“Flora of the Chicago Region” significantly adds to the current body of scientific knowledge, enabling both the professional and amateur botanist to better understand our region’s plants and insects.

This book will be used by national and regional agencies and institutions to determine the quality of natural areas, as well as serve as a model for other regions. It will also inspire people to take a closer look at the intricate natural world around them, more deeply appreciate this region’s natural heritage, and to consider what humans can do to heal the environment.