Wildflowers & Plants

Painting the landscape with a brilliant palette of color, the wildflower meadows of Starved Rock State Park are simply stunning to view.  Home to over two hundred varieties of wildflowers, the fields continually delight visitors while at the same time playing an important role in the balance of the ecosystem.  Each week the wildflowers that blanket the forest floor and the wide open meadows change the color and scenery of the park.

 Native to a particular area, wildflowers are plants than have not been cultivated or modified by human intervention. Wildflower meadows offer a home to animal species that feed on the blooming plants or on other wildlife that inhabit the fields.  Nectar producing flowers attract honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies. The larvae of the butterfly and the moth graze on the plant’s leaves. Birds and small mammals survive from the resources they find in the thick fragrant meadows.

 Due to urbanization and agricultural needs, the percentage of wildflower meadows has steadily decreased in the years since WWII. With the disappearance of these meadows an important habitat for many species of wildlife was also lost. As a result, native wildflowers and wild animals are becoming increasingly rare. These plants, that offer so much to the earth’s biodiversity, are now threatened with extinction.

So, visit us often to reap the pleasures and enjoy the ever changing beauty of Starved Rock’s protected meadows.  Just, please don’t pick the flowers!

 Click here to view our hiking blog…the blog gives you great information on trail conditions, current wildflowers in bloom and a sneak peek at what you will see while hiking!


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 Guide that 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!

Native Plants

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)

Prairie Plants

Below is a list of some of the Illinois prairie plants that can be found at Starved Rock State Park and surrounding parks.

  • Aster, New England (Aster novae-angliae)
  • Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa)
  • Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
  • Blazing Star, prairie (Liatris pycnostachya)
  • Coreopsis, prairie (Coreopsis palmata)
  • Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)
  • Drooping Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
  • Goldendrod, tall (Solidago canadensis)
  • Ironweed, prairie (Vernonia fasciculata)
  • Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
  • Master, rattlesnake (Eryngium yuccifolium)
  • Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)