Did you know that Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL is home to over 200 different wildflowers? Each year, the unique combination of sun, wind, water, temperature, elevation and precise location sets the stage for an ever-changing display of wildflowers.
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Starved Rock Wildflowers
Rain is needed in small doses throughout the winter. Too little rain provides a poor climate for seed germination. Too much rain, and the seeds could rot or be washed away. Showers too early or too late in the season may not help the flowers bloom.
Temperature is also critical. Warm days are a good indicator of a full bloom ahead. If the sun gets too hot, though (over 85 degrees F.), the seeds may become parched and the seedlings scorched. Cool nights can assist flower seedlings by slowing the growth of competitors like grasses and mustards. However, very cold temperatures mean bad news for blossoms.
When will the flowers bloom? None of us know for sure. Each year’s bloom is unique in its variety, profusion and timing. Click here for our Wildflowers of Starved Rock Guidethat is designed to help you identify wildflowers by common name, color and/or description, and time of year that they are known to bloom. This list is printable – print a copy, bring it with you and check off all the wildflowers that you see!
Starved Rock State Park is home to a variety of native plant species. Black oak, red cedar and white oak, as well as white pine and white cedar, grow on the drier, sandy bluff tops. Yellowbellied sapsuckers drill parallel rows of small holes on cedar trees and return to feed on sap and small insects. Serviceberry and northern honeysuckle - shrubs that prefer a well-drained area - attract scarlet tangers and cedar waxwings.
Farther away from the bluffs, red oaks and hickoriespredominate in deeper soils. Typical plants characteristic of the forest floor include the American witch hazel, black huckleberry and bracken fern. Nuthatches and chickadees feed on nuts, seeds and insects found in the bark of trees. Raccoons and flying squirrels spend many hours searching for and gathering berries and nuts.
At the forest edge, bright blue indigo buntings flit through the wild crab apple and plum trees that skirt the former glacial till prairie, while cottontail rabbits scamper through the bluestem and Indian grasses. In the sandy prairie soil, prickly pear cactus grows alongside lead plant, compass plant and rattlesnake master. White-tailed deer come to munch on the sumac, and red-tailed hawks soar overhead in search of voles and field mice.
Throughout spring and summer, wildflowers are as plentiful and varied as they are beautiful. Included in the floral array are colorful lichens and mosses, marsh marigolds, wild iris, trillium and Dutchman’s breeches, plus purple-flowered spiderworts, nodding or orange columbine and the magenta blooms of shooting star.
Below is a list of some Illinois trees that can be found at Starved Rock State Park and surrounding parks.
White Oak (Quercus alba)
Swamp White (oak Quercus bicolor)
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)
Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)
Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa)
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
Below is a list of some of the Illinois prairie plants that can be found at Starved Rock State Park and surrounding parks.