Chicago Botanic Garden

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McDonald Woods

• Native Illinois plants

• Boardwalk

• Birds and butterflies



gardening tips

Featured Video

Ecologist Joan O'Shaughnessy talks about how to identify and pull garlic mustard, an invasive plant in the prairie.

Dixon Prairie

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The 15-acre prairie is composed of six prairie ecosystems.

Late summer and early fall are the seasons of peak growth in the prairie. Native forbs and grasses reach their mature heights, while birds, butterflies, bees, and other buzzing insects are extremely active. Waterfowl dive and duck throughout the adjoining lakes, while herons stalk prey close to the shoreline.

These six separate prairies represent the different types of native prairies once common to northeastern Illinois, each with its own topography, soil conditions, and native plant species.

Rich black earth and plants that soar taller than 8 feet are characteristic of the tallgrass or mesic prairie that once dominated Illinois.

The bur oak savanna is an open grassland prairie that incorporates clusters of native bur oak trees and the flowering plants growing around them.

The sand prairie is a re-creation of the type of prairie found naturally at the southwestern end of Lake Michigan, where the shoreline encompasses low dunes with a marshy habitat sited between them. The interesting plant varieties found here reflect the dual nature of the environment.

The steep, sloped gravel hill prairie is a dry, exceptionally well-drained area with slightly sandy or gravelly soil. Plants found here are lower to the ground and flower earlier than tallgrass varieties.

In contrast to the others, the wet prairie is located close to the water’s edge and contains plants well suited to a marsh setting.

The fen prairie is a re-creation of an unusual wetland where the water contains a high degree of mineral salts leached from underground limestone.

These six re-creations are reminders of our past and serve as open classrooms of midwestern history.

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