Illinois is home to hundreds of wildflower species, but because of this massively diverse range, it can be a challenge to identify a wildflower you may have found out and about or in your garden.
But this article is here to help!
Below you’ll find 46 common types of Illinois wildflowers, with pictures to help you better identify them.
Chicory is a non-native wildflower that can be found across Illinois, usually in dry and sunny places such as open fields and roadsides.
An interesting fact about chicory flowers is that they only bloom for a day, and when it’s hot they may only be in bloom for a couple of hours.
Blue Vervain (This wildflower is also present in Massachusetts. Click here to know more) is a tough flower resistant to droughts that can be found in ditches, foothills, plains, shores, and wet soils in Illinois.
Many native bees enjoy Blue Vervain, and they also attract moths, skippers, small butterflies and wasps. It also makes an excellent host plant, as the Common Buckeye Butterfly caterpillars and Verbena Moth love to munch on the leaves.
While this wildflower is beautiful, it’s also considered a weed.
It often surprises gardeners, as it seems to grow in lawns out of nowhere! Ants, caterpillars, deer, doves, mason bees, rabbits, and even wild turkeys love common blue violet.
These wild flowers stand out because of their prickly leaves and stems, as well as their purplish-blue flowers.
Birds like goldfinches really love teasel because their seeds are an essential source of food for them in the winter.
Forget-me-nots are so named because they have a distinct, unpleasant scent or taste that you won’t forget anytime soon!
Their seeds also spread quickly, and it’s common to see them sprouting up in unexpected places. Forget-me-nots are also perennial plants that attract bees, butterflies, and moths.
Scarlet Paintbrush is a hemiparasite, meaning that rather than create nutrients via photosynthesis, it will feed off the nutrients of other plants, such as sagebrush and grasses.
Due to its parasitic nature, it can be hard to grow Scarlet Paintbrush at home and you will often find them in open fields full of grasses and other wildflowers.
While European Columbine flowers are blue and purple, red Columbine can be found in Illinois. They do well in gardens, or as potted plants.
As well as being a colorful addition to your garden, Columbine flowers can attract bumblebees, butterflies and hummingbirds which help the flower to pollinate.
Fire Pink is a carnivorous wildflower you can find in Illinois, and like tropical carnivorous plants, it traps and eats bugs using the sticky hairs on their leaves that also ward off ants from eating their leaves.
The blooms on a Cardinal Flower cluster at the end of their tall stalk, and if you’re a fan of hummingbirds, having Cardinal Flowers is sure to attract some to your garden, especially when they’re planted in a partially sunny area.
Their tubular flowers are practically made for a hummingbird’s long beak!
You can find the Spotted Coralroot in the wooded areas of Illinois. What makes Spotted Coralroot unique is the fact they don’t have any leaves. Rather, their stalks produce clusters of flowers.
It is unable to derive nutrients from photosynthesis, so it instead gets its nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi, a natural fungus that grows in its roots.
Hummingbirds also love Trumpet Honeysuckle! They particularly love this flower for its vibrant red berries, and the flower is also attractive to birds like American robins, goldfinches, Hermit thrushes, purple finches, and quails.
It looks similar to the Trumpet Creeper, and people often confuse the two. But the Trumpet Honeysuckle is far less aggressive than the Trumpet Creeper, and does not grow as large.
Swamp Milkweed can be found beside lakes and wet meadows, and can be identified by its deep pink flowers.
If you would like a range of pollinators in your garden, then Swamp Milkweed is a great addition to your garden, as its sweet-smelling flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
They are a particularly essential source of food for Monarch butterfly caterpillars.
As its name suggests, Spreading Dogbane is a prolific grower, and is a widespread flower across Europe and North America.
The name ‘dogbane’ is derived from the fact this animal is seriously poisonous to dogs – and humans! It has small, bell-shaped flowers, smells like lilac, and can be found in the sandy soil along streams.
If you would like a fragrant wildflower in your garden, then the Common Milkweed would be a great choice. Around 450 species rely on the Common Milkweed as a food source, such as ants, bees, beetles, butterflies, flies, moths, and wasps.
However, Common Milkweed can push and suffocate other plants, so we recommend planting it in an isolated area with little to no plants around it.
Joe Pye Weed is the common name for plants belonging to the genus Eutrochium. You can recognize Joe Pye Weed by its large pink flower clusters and their long stems that attract a variety of pollinators. J
oe Pye Weed is found in wet meadows and at the outskirts of woodlands, and should be planted in a partially shaded area.
Bull Thistle is commonly found in Illinois, and due to its spikiness should be handled with care! Their seeds are also an amazing source of food for goldfinches, and they also the thistledown when creating their nests.
This wildflower can be found in barnyards, hay fields, old fields, open prairies, pastures, railways, and roadsides. It has deep purple flowers and large leaves, and once the flower dries it has a similar texture to velcro – stickiness included!
Common Burdock is also attractive to bees, birds, and butterflies (This wildflower is also present in Montana. Find out more about it.). However, you should be careful handling this plant as it may cause an allergic reaction or irritate your skin.
18. Clasping Venus’ Looking Glass
This wildflower can be found in dry, sandy soils such as those in woods and gardens. You can identify a Clasping Venus’ Looking Glass by its round leaves.
It’s also a self-pollinating plant that attracts bees, flies, and small butterflies.
The Bee Balm is a perennial plant with stunning lilac blooms. It can be found growing in dry areas like prairies, fields, and roadsides.
Butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinator bees love this plant, and can’t resist its flowers rich in nectar. It also makes a refreshing tea with a variety of health benefits, particularly for warding off the flu and colds.
Creeping Charlie grows in large groups and particularly thrives in partially shaded, moist areas. However, it can definitely handle the sun!
Creeping Charlie is often considered a weed, and is often found in lawns. Since the plant has a complex root system, mowing or hand-pulling the plant can be difficult.
Purple Loosestrife normally grows in wet areas such as lakes, marshes, and wet meadows. But don’t be fooled by its beauty. Purple Loosestrife is an invasive species that can easily take over native plants.
22. Birds-Foot Trefoil
Birds-foot Trefoil has orange and yellow flowers that sometimes have red streaks.
While it’s a beautiful flower, it’s also called an invasive species, smothering native plants and taking over fields and gardens, particularly in parks, roadsides, and sandy soils.
Still, as long as you manage its growth, Birds-foot Trefoil can have benefits. Their flowers are an important source of food for pollinators like moths, butterflies, and bees.
St John’s Wort has clusters of vibrant yellow flowers, and thrives in disturbed fields, pastures, prairies, and sandy soils.
It is also considered an invasive species, and doesn’t just pose a risk to other plants, but can be deadly to sheep, horses, and other livestock if ingested.
Sneezeweed are beautiful flowers resembling daisies that come into bloom in the fall, and are often found beside ponds, streams, swamps, and in wetlands.
Unlike its name suggests, Sneezeweed generally doesn’t cause allergic reactions. Rather, its name derives from an old medicinal practice of drying the plant and crushing the leaves to make a powder that elicited sneezing.
The Black-Eyed Susan thrives in fields, open words, prairies, and roadsides.
These graceful wildflowers can be found in shades of brown, orange, red, and yellow, and its name comes from the dark ‘eye’ in the center of the plant.
Many species of butterflies, birds, and bees are attracted to these stunning blooms, and goldfinches love eating the seeds.
Green-headed Coneflowers are most commonly found near stream banks, swamps, roadsides, and woods. It’s hard to miss these tall, bright yellow flowers!
These wildflowers can be grown in meadows and prairies to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. In the fall, you can also put flowerheads aside for songbirds such as goldfinches to eat.
The flower also spreads rapidly underground, so when growing at home make sure you plant it somewhere with plenty of space.
While parsnips are a tasty root vegetable, this close relative that grows in the wild is incredibly dangerous!
Wild Parsnips taste and smell like cultivated parsnips, but their stems and leaves cause severe burns and blisters. Wild Parsnips have grooves in their stems, yellow blooms, and flat flowers.
North America is home to over 120 Goldenrod species, and while the blooms might be small, their vibrant color is hard to miss! Goldenrod grows in clusters atop branched stems that have stiff leaves.
While Goldenrod is often seen as a culprit for hay fever, this isn’t actually true. Rather, pollen grains from near-identical plants such as ragweed are to blame.
However, this wildflower can spread in gardens, but you can manage its growth with regular pruning and planting Goldenrod in pots.
The Common Sunflower is an iconic flower found all over the world. The massive yellow petals and striking dark centers are synonymous with summer.
Wild Sunflowers tend to grow on the edges of forests, in grasslands, fields, prairies, and roadsides. But Sunflowers are commonly ground in gardens too.
As well as looking beautiful, Common Sunflowers are also an important food course for bees, butterflies, and other insect pollinators.
Mammals and birds also enjoy eating their seeds, and they make for a healthy snack for humans too.
Common Mullein is native to Africa, Asia, and Europe as well as being a naturalized species in Illinois, taking over many meadows, pasture lands, and roadsides in the state (This wildflower is also present in Mississippi. Click here to know more).
Common Mullein is recognizable by its small, yellow blooms that are clustered on a tall stem, and their dense, yet soft leaves.
In fact, many people believe that Common Mullein looks a lot like corn! It also has medicinal properties too, being used in ancient times to treat ailments such as inflammations and pulmonary diseases.
The Buttercup is another iconic plant, but did you know that it is a flower genus containing 600 unique species of flowers that grow all over the world?
Buttercups are usually identified by their yellow flowers, but you can also find them in stunning shades of cream, orange, pink, purple, and red.
Grow them in your garden to bring in pollinators, or arrange them in your home to liven up any room! Buttercups are often found in moist habitats in Illinois, such as meadows, fields, and roadsides. They often bloom in the spring and summer.
Fleabane is another flower genus containing over 400 species, and a lot of them are wildflowers native to Illinois. These flowers have delicate, small petals with round, yellow centers.
Butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and moths adore Fleabane, and they bloom wildly from spring to fall in dry mountains, grasslands, pastures, and roadsides.
Caring for Fleabane is easy because it’s resistant to drought, works well with most soil types, and is self-seeding. You can plant it to soften up hard landscapes, or as ground cover. They look effective in coastal gardens, mixed borders, or rock gardens.
Although Indian Hemp is native to North America, it is also considered a weed in Illinois. It is commonly found in prairies, meadows, and dry, rocky woods.
However, it also does well on farms where it has a negative impact on the yield of crops such as soybeans and corn. As well as being invasive, it is also incredibly toxic to dogs, livestock, and humans.
You shouldn’t touch its milky sap, as it will irritate your skin. You can identify Indian Hemp by its hard, red stems and bushy leaves.
Yarrow gives you abundant flowers that grow in clusters. It has feathery, small leaves similar to ferns with a scent reminiscent of chrysanthemums.
Yarrow plants were originally introduced to North America from Europe, but some native Yarrow subspecies can be found in Illinois. Yarrow attracts bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, and wasps.
Wild Yarrow plants can usually be found in disturbed areas, open forests, grasslands, and roadsides. They’re tolerant to drought and don’t need perfect conditions to survive.
Catnip is an infamous plant with a long history of culinary and medical uses – particularly as being a stimulant for cats! Catnip is part of the Mint family, with fragrant leaves that can repel cockroaches, mosquitoes, and termites.
Catnip is native to Asia and Europe, but is also naturalized in Illinois. It thrives on dry banks, fields, roadsides, streams, and waste grounds.
Originally introduced to North America by European settlers, Queen Anne’s Lace is often considered an aggressive weed, invading degraded prairies, grasslands, meadows, and roadsides.
What makes Queen Anne’s Lace so interesting is that it is a relative of domesticated carrots!
This is why Queen Anne’s Lace is also referred to as Wild Carrot, and while you can eat it when the plant is young, as the plant grows its roots soon become fibrous and woody.
Queen Anne’s Lace is identifiable by two-foot-tall umbels with fuzzy stems and small white flowers. It is adaptable to most soils, and pulling it up from the ground can be tricky!
It’s also known for prolifically producing and spreading seeds.
Oxeye Daisies have stunning white petals with large yellow discs at their centers. However, this European wildflower is considered an invasive species in Illinois.
Its underground rhizomes and seeds aggressively spread, taking over native ecosystems. They’re often found in disturbed sites, grassy fields, meadows, and open woodlands.
While Oxeye Daisies can self-fertilize, bees, beetles, butterflies, flies, and moths also help out with pollination.
Boneset has a cluster of fuzzy, small white flowers atop its dense foliage. It blooms for a long time, blooming continuously from summer through fall.
Also referred to as the ‘Sweating plant,’ this nickname has its roots in the fact that it was once traditionally used to elicit heavy sweating in order to treat fevers.
Despite being a popular plant in traditional medicine, the FDA has placed it on its Poisonous Plants Database, so it’s important to exercise caution when using holistic medicine that contains Boneset.
A native plant in Asia and Europe, White Clover is now a naturalized species in Illinois. It’s such a successful wildflower that it can take over lawns, pastures, roadsides, and waste areas, but – thankfully – it doesn’t take over native vegetation.
From spring to fall, White Clover comes into bloom with round, creamy white flowers. Many of us are familiar with clover’s three green leaves, but if you find one with four, your luck may turn around!
Virginia Bluebells are one of the first wildflowers you’ll see come into bloom in Illinois. It’s a stunning perennial plant normally found in wet, shady areas on the outskirts of deciduous woods.
Virginia Bluebells are also unique wildflowers that have pink buds that bloom into cerulean flowers.
Bachelor’s Buttons are a common wildflower in Illinois that butterflies just can’t get enough of! Plus, it’s great for cutting and drying. Bachelor’s Buttons are similar to daisies and are practically disease-free and pest-free.
They are also drought-tolerant and deer-tolerant too. What’s not to live? These plants couldn’t be easier to grow and would be a great addition to flower bed borders or rock gardens.
Dame’s Rocket is a widespread wildflower in llinois. It spreads quickly in woodlands and meadows, and is often found pre-packaged in wildflower seed mixes.
Dame’s Rocket is also considered invasive in some areas. Still, the fledgling leaves of this spring flower contain a lot of vitamin C, and while it has a rather bitter taste, is a great addition to salads.
Purple Coneflower is a seriously durable flower, and is found in many gardens across Illinois. They are also resistant to drought and heat, so they are more than capable of withstanding harsh conditions.
However, rabbits love them almost as much as we do, and enjoy nibbling on the leaves.
Giant Ironweed is tall, durable, and has dark purple blooms. It is often found in woodlands and meadows across Illinois.
This perennial plant is a wonderful addition to your garden, particularly when planted in a group. A wide variety of butterflies are drawn to Giant Ironweed, such as Monarch butterflies and swallowtails.
Butterfly Weed is a common sight in many gardens in Illinois. They have a bright orange, flat-topped cluster of flowers.
As the name would suggest, butterflies love this wild flower due to its generous nectar production, and the same can be said for hummingbirds too!
Wood Lily is a wildflower with petals that face upwards in order to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. This helps encourage cross-pollination that is crucial for the Wood Lily’s reproduction.
These stunning red-orange flowers with purple specks also make them appealing to gardeners as well.
Every Wood Lily flower will remain open for up to 11 days. What makes it unique to other Illinois wildflowers is that its petals don’t instantly close or wilt once they’re pollinated.
Wood Lily bulbs are also edible, with a similar flavor to turnips. However, as Wood Lilies are often taken from their natural habitat, they are not as common as they once were.
We hope our article on 45 common types of Illinois wildflowers have made the vibrant, stunning flowers of the state more recognizable, and have encouraged you to plant a few in your garden!