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It’s Prime Time to View Prairie Flowers in the Forest Preserves of Cook County

blazing star at the Willow-Sanders parcel

As the summer season winds down, late-blooming prairie wildflowers are providing a striking natural display throughout the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

A prairie, French for “meadow,” is an open grassland with no trees. Prairies feature a colorful variety of grasses and forbs (wildflowers). Did you know? Illinois is known as the “prairie state” because much of the state’s landscape was once prairie habitat. Today, prairies are one of the rarest types of habitat due to extensive human intervention, mainly agriculture. In order to create row crop agriculture, machines churned the prairie’s nutrient rich soil and destroyed its structure.

Because of this habitat degradation, it is difficult to restore farmed prairie lands back to their former glory. But despite the challenges, the Forest Preserves, volunteers and partners have been attempting to bring some of our former agricultural lands back to prairie. For these reasons and many more, preserving and restoring remnant prairies is all the more important.

Within the Forest Preserves’ 70,000 acres, visitors can experience numerous prairie types, including black soil prairies, sand prairies, wet prairies, dolomite prairies and gravel hill prairies. Each type has distinct characteristics, and offer visitors a unique experience.

Common prairie flowers

Where to Visit a Prairie