Illinois Wildflowers: Pictures and Identification Tips

picture of a common blue violet, the state flower of Illinois, and part of the Illinois wild flowers section

Any discussion covering flowers and flower garden resources in the Land of Lincoln necessarily starts by celebrating the purple violet, the official Illinois state flower. Violets, and all their hybrid varieties that go by the name pansies are always a go to ground cover flower during spring, summer and fall gardening seasons.

Less well known is the fact that all violets do double duty. For example, Illinois residents interested in creating a Butterfly Garden will be happy to know that their violets provide food for the larvae of Variegated Fritillary Butterflies.

picture of Swamp Milkweed flowers, Illinois wildflowers
Illinois wildflowers and flower garden resource guides can easily be found in both local areas of the state as well as on the internet. Many will include butterfly garden tips with great information covering a variety of native plants that provide nectar for adults as well as a larval food source for most native butterfly species.

Most people are also familiar with the relationship between milkweed and Monarch butterfly larvae. The picture shows the purple flowers of a Swamp Milkweed, one of the best of the milkweed plants for hosting Monarch larvae.

picture of Goldenrod , Illinois wildflowers
Not to be mistaken for ragweed, various goldenrod plants might also attract butterflies. They are also magnets for wasps and other pollinating insects, making them a great garden choice.

This particular guide provides basic Illinois wildflower pictures and identification tips for gardeners and nature lovers.

Illinois Wildflowers: The Basics

picture of a yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum), an Illinois endangered plant
Most horticulturists discuss flower gardening as an enjoyable hobby. Most flower garden enthusiasts would agree, with a few caveats.

The existence of endangered flowers such as the native Illinois Yellow Lady’s Slipper highlights the fact that all flowers are not created equal. Some require specialized habitats to thrive. Protecting the woodland areas that support endangered flowers might be the only way they survive in the state.

picture of  Illinois Orchids, Lesser Ladies Tresses
A variety of orchids, such as the Lesser Ladies Tresses also require more specialized habitats to thrive.

picture of Ghost Pipes flowers
Monotropa uniflora, part of the Heath family grows in woodlands in association with mushrooms, especially Russula species where it gains its nutrients. Look for it to bloom during the summer months. It ranks close to the top of the list of difficult to transplant plants.

Happily, exceptions to the easy garden rule are limited. All Illinonis gardeners can improve on their skills by understanding the different garden zones throughout the state.

  • Zone 4 (parts of Stephenson, JoDaviess, Lake, and McHenry counties)
  • Zone 5, most of northern Illinois
  • Zone 6, most of central Illinois
  • Zone 7, most of southern Illinois and parts of central Illinois

picture of a white-fawn-lily
Additionally, the presence of Illinois wildflowers also depends on a specific ecosystem. People often refer to specific types of native plants such as the prairie wildflowers, wetland wildflowers and woodland wildflowers etc., al. Fawn Lilies, including the white fawn lily in the picture, for example, are another example of woodland wildflowers.

picture of  an orange Michigan lily, Illinois wildflowers
The orange Michigan lily provides additional color options for appropriately suited gardens.

picture of Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Delightful species such as the Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), pictured, also are a nice choice for yards with shaded areas. Look for them as well as others such as:

  • Bloodroot
  • Common Blue Violet
  • False Solomon’s Seal
  • Jacob’s Ladder
  • Liverwort
  • Swamp Buttercup
  • Wild Columbine

picture of the small blue flowers of Jacob's Ladder
Here’s the small blue flowers of Jacob’s Ladder, a nice ground cover type flowering plant.

The next set of pictures provide an initial look at some basic forms and colors of native flowering plants.

picture of the red flowers of Royal Catchfly, Illinois wildflowers
Red flowers are known to attract hummingbirds. The Royal Catchfly is no exception.

picture of the red flowers of the Cardinal flower, Illinois wildflowers
Cardinal flowers can also add a touch of red to may gardens.

picture of Great Blue Lobelia flowers
A relative, the Great Blue Lobelia also produces nice flowers.

picture of Climbing Prairie Rose
Native flowering plants from the rose family, along with the commercial roses continue to be popular garden choices. The Climbing Prairie Rose might be a good choice for many of the state’s prairie gardens.

picture of Philadelphia fleabane, Illinois wildflowers
Spring and fall are great times for planting flowering plants in the Aster family. Philadelphia fleabane, pictured, provides a nice green
leafy background against bunches of smaller white blossoms.

picture of Smooth Phlox, Illinois wildflowers
While many Phlox species lack a green leafy background, they produce colorful, low to the ground flowers that easily compliment taller garden choices such as the Lobelia.

picture of  an Eastern Shooting Star
Finally, for a more novel garden touch, consider the Eastern Shooting Star, another nice spring bloom.