Native Plants

Here is some general information about adding native plants to your yard, an open space in the parkway on your block, or a community garden.  Also, there is information on natural areas in some of the nearby parks, birds & butterflies, and Chicago Region Ecosystem.

Where to buy native plants

Hyde Park Garden Fair
Look for the native plants section.  They tend to sell out.  Go on Friday for best selection.
When: Friday and Saturday following Mother’s Day in May
Where: The mall area in Hyde Park Shopping Mall.  (Lake Park & 55th)

Illinois Extension – Conservation@Home
– Local native plant sale dates
– Native Plant Websites & Regional Nurseries

Chicago Living Corridors
– Habitat Products and Services List

Starting a native plants garden

Conservation@Home – Cook County – Illinois Extension
– attend a native landscape design workshop
– register your native habitat property after you have it established

West Cook Wild Ones
Guide to Native Gardening
Butterfly Gardening
– more resources under the Learn top menu option

Birds can be used to determine what birds are most common nearby, and what birds have been observed recently.  One way to start is go to Explore Hotspots, and then enter Cook County, IL in the Location field.  Then zoom in to the Hyde Park / Woodlawn area and select among the eBird Hotspots in the area.  You can click on a Hotspot and then select View Details.   Here are view examples:
Nichols Park
Washington Park
Jackson Park

Butterflies, etc. can be used to explore sightings of butterflies, native bees and much more.  Similar to eBird, one way to start is go to Explore and enter location Cook County, IL.  This view shows individual sightings.  You can then enter a species to view sightings for only that species.  For example, here are the sightings for Common Buckeye.   As another example, start by entering Jackson Park, Chicago as the location, and then click on Species to display a species list ranked by number of observations.

Citizen Science Projects

Citizen science projects, for both adults and youth, are a great way to learn more about the Chicago Region Ecosystem — and it helps create data for research.  Some places to start:
Audubon Great Lakes
Field Museum
Chicago Living Corridors

Natural Areas – Chicago Park District

The Chicago Park District has an ongoing effort to create and maintain natural areas in Chicago parks. These include a variety of habitat types: savannas, dunes, woodlands, and wetlands. And these areas support mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.

CPD encourages volunteer assistance with maintaining and improving the natural areas.  The Volunteer Stewardship Program is described here.

Below is a map of CPD natural areas in the Hyde Park / Woodlawn area:

Following is a list of CPD natural areas in the Hyde Park / Woodlawn area.  Links are included, where available, for the CPD natural area description page, info on how to volunteer for workdays (Volunteer Days), and a link to the natural area web page (if any).

The Volunteer Days links all to the same page, here.

This info last updated:  11/17/2018.

Corrections needed?  If so, please contact:

The natural area list is ordered geographically, from north to south, and west to east.

Burnham Wildlife Corridor (BWC)  CPD Page
– lakefront trail, McCormick Place south to 47th Street
– 5 natural areas
– 5 gathering places (through 2019) – by community-based organizations using local art

From CPD website:
The BWC is a 100-acre ribbon of urban wilderness running through Burnham Park. The corridor is composed of 5 natural areas including the 41st St. Bioretention, Burnham Centennial Prairie, Burnham West, Burnham Nature Sanctuary, and McCormick Bird Sanctuary. The corridor spans both sides of Lake Shore Drive, and is the largest stretch of natural area along Chicago’s lakefront. Its native prairie, savanna, and woodland ecosystems provide healthy, diverse habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, and offer opportunities for visitors to meaningfully connect to this revitalized public green space in ways that inspire nature exploration, enjoyment, and stewardship.

The Burnham Wildlife Corridor is home to five unique “gathering spaces,” which have been designed and created — and will be activated — by teams of local artists and community-based organizations from the Chinatown, Bronzeville, and Pilsen neighborhoods. The BWC Gathering Spaces are artistic installations and seating areas, reflective of nature and culture, that serve as assembly grounds and resting points for people exploring this part of the lakefront. They are located on both the east and west sides of Lake Shore Drive.

Burnham Nature Sanctuary CPD Page  Volunteer Days
– part of Burnham Wildlife Corridor, 44th to 47th

Washington Park Arboretum  CPD Page
– NW corner: 51st & King Dr.

From CPD website:
Morton Arboretum is collaborating with the Chicago Park District to develop arboretums in select parks. Washington Park has ancient bur oaks, most of which were planted in the early 1870s following a design by Federick Law Olmsted. The site also features large lindens, hickories and sycamores.

Washington Park Lagoon and Casting Pond CPD Page  Volunteer Days
– Washington Park – 55th to 60th, King Dr to Cottage Grove

Nichols Park Wildflower Meadow CPD Page  Volunteer Days

Columbia Basin CPD Page
– part of Paul Douglas Nature Sanctuary
– first lagoon south of Museum of Science and Industry

Wooded Island CPD Page  Volunteer Days
– part of Paul Douglas Nature Sanctuary

Paul Douglas Nature Sanctuary
 – see above; include: lagoon, Wooded Island, 5 smaller islands, Columbia Basin
– no separate listing for Wooded Island in CPD Pages

Bobolink Meadow  CPD Page  Volunteer Days  Website
– Bobolink Meadow and Bobolink Woods

63rd Street Beach  CPD Page  Volunteer Days

South Shore Nature Sanctuary  CPD Page  Volunteer Days  Website

Rainbow Beach Dunes  CPD Page  Volunteer Days  Website

Chicago Wilderness – Green Infrastructure Vision

(This information is also available at

In planning for and implementing native plants and natural habitat on your property, in your community, it can be helpful and informative to consider the surrounding area, and all of the Chicago Region ecosystem.  CLC is all about creating corridors on private property that help to connect natural area cores.  A private property can participate in a row or stepping-stone corridor that helps with the movement of fauna between core areas.  This promotes biodiversity and ecosystem robustness throughout the Chicago Region.

A great way to start exploring native habitat cores, corridors and the Chicago Region ecosystem is looking at the Chicago Wilderness (CW) Green Infrastructure Vision (GIV).   The final report is here (PDF file).   This vision provides an assessment of the existing ecosystem and green infrastructure and provides guidance for improving and expanding natural areas and green infrastructure in the region.

What is green infrastructure?  “Green infrastructure is an interconnected system of natural areas and open spaces including woodlands, wetlands, trails and parks, which are protected and managed for the ecological values and functions they provide to people and wildlife.  Green infrastructure supports native species; sustains air and water resources; and contributes to the health and quality of life for people and communities.” (from Kane County 2040 Green Infrastructure Plan – PDF file)

Some counties and communities have created a Green Infrastructure plan specific to their area.   Chicago Wilderness has helped with this effort through their SWAT Green Infrastructure Mapping Projects.  Check the link to see if there is a plan for your county and community.

Map At
The Green Infrastructure Vision includes lots of geodata and mapping.  The Field Museum has an online interactive map here.  This mapping includes many layers, including, for example, estimated Ecosystem Services Aggregate Value (in dollars).

For those interested in diving deeper into GIV reports and GIV data, see the GIV content and data stored at CMAP.   The geodata is publicly available for download.

PSCC I-View.  Another excellent resource for exploring  your area and the entire Chicago Region ecosystem I-View.  This is a database and online interactive map of protected lands, categorized in four areas:

  1. Public Sector (does not include municipalities)
  2. Private Sector
  3. Municipalities
  4. Illinois Nature Preserves

The I-View data can be downloaded.

Chicago Region, C@H, Chicago Parks, Birds & Butterflies

Here is a PDF file (2 MB) of a presentation given Nov. 2018 at First Unitarian First Forum.

UU 1st Forum – Other Opportunities v2 – 2018-11-18