Resources

The following links represent a small sample of the sites which we have visited in order to gather information for the Native Suburbia project. Inclusion below does not imply agreement with opinions on the sites or certification that any information you find there will be correct. It only means that we found something useful and perhaps you will also. If you have a site that you feel would be helpful for this type of project, please contact us with the relevant information.

Sections:

General

  • Wild Ones:This organization promotes environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities. Wild Ones is a not-for-profit environmental education and advocacy organization.  We are members of the Greater DuPage chapter. A Yahoo! discussion group (wildonesnativeplants) is available to discuss native plant landscaping and to exchange ideas and information about related subjects, but unfortunately it is only for members of Wild Ones. However, non-members are welcome to read posted messages.
  • Native Gardening (Yahoo group):This is an online discussion group that is open to the public. It is described as a forum to exchange ideas and information about native plants and landscapes. Topics range from discussing how to use native plants in our own backyard, to how we can protect the environment and conserve natural wildlife habitats throughout the world. This is a group filled with a wide variety of people and the discussions can get heated and off-topic, but they will make you think.
  • Conservation @ Home:The Conservation Foundation has launched a new initiative that encourages and recognizes property owners that protect and create yards that are environmentally friendly and conserve water. This includes planting native vegetation, such as prairie and woodland wildflowers, trees and shrubs, create butterfly and rain gardens, and remove exotic species of plants.
  • US EPA - Green Landscaping:The Great Lakes National Program Office maintains this site to enhance public access to information on landscaping with native plants.
  • Grow Native!:A joint program of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Grow Native! program provides information, education and training materials that increase conservation awareness of native plants and their effective use. This site contains a wealth of information and I wish that Illinois had a similar program.
  • PlantNative:A site dedicated to moving native plants and naturescaping into mainstream landscaping practices. Their goal is to work with nursery owners, landscape professionals and consumers to increase public awareness of native plants and related landscaping practices and to increase both the supply of and demand for native plants. There is a commercial angle to this site, but it contains a lot of excellent information as well.
  • Audubon At Home:Audubon At Home is about taking personal conservation action to improve the environmental health and habitat quality of our yards and neighborhoods.
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to educate people about the environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of native plants.
  • Invasive Species Initiative: The Invasive Species Initiative is The Nature Conservancy's response to abating the damage caused to native biodiversity by the human-facilitated introduction of non-native, harmful invasive species. This web site provides many resources designed to help all conservationists deal most effectively with invasive species.
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources:This site is not dedicated to native plants but can provide local information if you are patient.
  • Chicago Wilderness:Chicago Wilderness is a regional nature reserve that includes more than 225,000 acres of protected natural areas. It stretches from southeastern Wisconsin, through northeastern Illinois and into northwestern Indiana. This site has some things of regional interest.
  • Rain Garden Network:Rain Garden Network works with homeowners and other property owners to help them do what they can to protect the water quality of our lakes, rivers and streams from pollution and the damage done by stormwater runoff. Check out this site to learn more about rain gardens.
  • Organic Gardening:Covers the basics of organic gardening. Organic gardeners don't use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on their plants. But gardening organically is much more than what you don't do.  Unfortunately, native plants are not necessarily part of the message on this site.
  • Organic Gardening Forums:A great place to learn from others who are practicing organic gardening.
  • Bat Conservation International:Based in Austin, Texas, BCI is devoted to conservation, education, and research initiatives involving bats and the ecosystems they serve.

Prairie Yards

  • Heather Holm, Minnetonka, MN:This is an interesting collection of photos showing the complete restoration of a wooded lot starting in 2004 and ending in 2010."
  • Kory and Emily, Virginia:This a collection of photos documenting the progress of Kory and Emily's landscaping and improvement projects. The ultimate goal of the project was inline with the nontraditional landscaping practice of "naturescaping": use native plants, reduce the amount of manicured lawn space, increase the infiltration of rainwater into the ground, and provide food and habitat for native animals (birds & insects mostly). All plants are Virginia native, and are either rescues from construction sites, donations from other established landscapes, or purchased commercially through the Virginia Living Museum. [I do not agree with several choices that were made on this project, but overall it is a good example. - Don]"
  • Marcus de la fleur, Elmhurst, IL:In 2003 Marcus set out to demonstrate sustainable stormwater and integrated landscape treatments at the residential scale. Check out his site and see how he incorporated a green roof, rain barrels, porous pavement, rain gardens, and gravel grass into his rented home.
  • Leslie Cummings, Wheaton, IL:Leslie has been interested in gardening and wildlife her entire life, especially after becoming a homeowner in 1993. She worked to create a wildlife habitat using native plants and her yard was certified by the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. Deciding that she wanted more space to work with, this site is actually the story of another habitat she is creating in her next home on a half-acre in Wheaton, IL. (Warning: Leslie's content is nice, but her site is hosted in advertising and pop-under hell.)
  • Jason and Lisa Spangler's Garden Yard:A couple in Texas decided to work at making their property a pleasant place for both people and wildlife. They are doing this by using native plants and following the wildscape principles. They have also included a detailed account of their Encounter With Bad Weed Laws.
  • Liebler-Neubig Front Yard Prairie Project:A homeowner in Michigan decided to convert much of their suburban front lawn into a natural area. They started in 1999 and there are pictures through 2003.
  • LessLawn.com - Making a Prairie Berm:Evelyn J. Hadden describes how she converted free fill dirt into a prairie berm. The site also contains information concentrating on low-maintenance, organic, and wildlife-friendly gardening.
  • Our Backyard Forest:In 1995 a homeowner in Ohio decided to get rid of a large part of their lawn and replace it with native plants.

Plant Identification

  • USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service:Home of the PLANTS Database, which provides standardized information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens of the U.S. It includes names, plant symbols, distributional data, species abstracts, characteristics, images, plant links, references and crop information.
  • USDA Forest Service - Northeast Research Station:This site contains a wide variety of information. The most useful is the ability to search the Illinois Plant Identification Network (ILPIN).
  • Illinois Wildflowers:This site, maintained by John Hilty, has descriptions, photographs, and range maps of many wildflowers in Illinois. These consist primarily of herbaceous flowering plants and a few small shrubs, whether native to Illinois or introduced from somewhere else.
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Native Plants Database:Native Plant Information Network database with pictures and information on over 7,200 species.
  • Grasses of Iowa: An on-going project of the Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology Department at Iowa State University designed to provide the general public and professionals a handy resource for the identification and evaluation of grasses. This site has an interactive identification utility that can be very helpful.
  • Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust - Grass Identification Guide (UK):A guide to identifying grasses by Jean Turner. This is part of a British wildlife, conservation & environmental education site. While it doesn't cover grasses native to the U.S., it is a good way to learn about grasses.
  • Dendrology at Virginia Tech:This is the site to find tree identification fact sheets on approximately 800 species of trees, as well as lots of other tree information.
  • What Tree Is It?:Using two of the parts of trees, leaves and fruit, this site will identify the common trees of Ohio (and other states of course).
  • Identify America's Common Trees - A Guide for Specific Tree Identification:This is an About.com:Forestry article by Steve Nix. It provides a lot of quick descriptions of common trees.
  • Noble Foundation Plant Image Gallery:This is a great collection of plant images, including forbs, grasses, and trees. There are multiple pictures per species showing different identification aspects. The site concentrates on plants in the Oklahoma area, but many of them have wide ranges that make this relevant to a greater audience.
  • Illinois Virtual Forest:Provides online resources for tree and plant identification.
  • Knowing Your Wood- How to Identify Trees:A summary of links that are helpful for tree identification.
  • Invasivespecies.gov:Gateway to Federal efforts concerning invasive species. On this site you can learn about the impacts of invasive species and the Federal government's response, as well as read select species profiles and find links to agencies and organizations dealing with invasive species issues.
  • Top U.S. Invasives:A good list of plants considered invasive in the U.S. There are many pictures and detailed descriptions.
  • Weeds Gone Wild:No topless drunken weeds, just provides information on the serious threat and impacts of invasive alien plants to the native flora, fauna, and natural ecosystems of the United States.
  • invasive.org - Invasive and Exotic Weeds:Provides an archive of high quality images related to forest health and silviculture.
  • Cofrin Center for Biodiversity UW-Green Bay:This site has good pictures and descriptions of some invasive species.
  • Midwestern Turfgrass Weed Identification and Control:This site is a perfect example of how ignorant people can be about native plants, calling them weeds and giving tips on how to destroy them. On the positive side, they have good descriptions and pictures of plants which are often native, so take what you can from this site.
  • Garden Web - Name That Plant!:This is a public forum where gardening enthusiasts gather. If you post a picture of an unidentified plant, someone may be able to help you. Your mileage may vary.
  • Invasive Plants Fact Sheets:This is a great resource for invasive species. Click on the name, get a fact sheet with a photo, distribution, and other information about the species.
  • Latin Pronunciation:Once you identify a plant there is a good chance that you will want to be able to tell others about it. This paper may help you to pronounce Latin words and phrases.

Books

  • Noah's Garden:A former old-style suburban gardener, Sara Stein writes convincingly of the ecological history of suburbia and the necessity of good stewardship of the land stolen from prairies and forests to make our back yards.
  • Common Weeds of the United States:Covers 220 weeds with illustrations, maps, botanical information and plant lore for each. There is an introduction which shows its age as it extolls the virtues of chemical weed killers, but the rest of the book is very helpful.
  • Weeds of the Northeast:A practical illustrated guide for identification of 299 common and economically important "weeds". This book has good pictures and vegetative descriptions. Just remember that many native plants are unfairly classified as weeds by books like this. We used it to identify several natives in our yard.
  • Peterson Field Guide to Wildflowers : Northeastern and North-Central North America:Grouped by color and by plant characteristics, 1,293 species in 84 families are described and illustrated. Included here are many of the flowers you're likely to encounter in the eastern and north-central U.S. This is the book that we take out into the yard first.
  • Field Guide to the Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes of the Northern United States:With quantitative descriptions and 500 drawings, this little book will help you to differentiate over 370 of the most common species of grasses and sedges. This book is not heavy on details, but it is a good peek into the world of grasses.
  • The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook: For Prairies, Savannas, and Woodlands:This "how-to" restoration manual provides a detailed account of what has been learned about the art and science of prairie and savanna restoration and the application of that knowledge to restoration projects.

Shopping

  • The Natural Garden, Inc.:The Natural Garden has been growing native plants since 1979. Offering over 250 species of natives, including the Chicago area’s largest selection of sedges, ornamental grasses and prairie forbs. [As of Summer 2010, they no longer welcome retail customers. If you are determined, you can order plants via email and then pick them up.]
  • Amazon.com:They have a huge selection of books, with many titles that were helpful to the Native Suburbia project.
  • Good-Natured Landscapes LLC:This is a residential landscape design and consultation service for Chicagoland's Western Suburbs, that uses predominately native plants (trees, shrubs, perennials). We didn't use Good-Natured Landscapes for Native Suburbia, but we do know Denise. If you are looking for some assistance with your yard, then she is just the person to help you.