O'Fallon Progress

Check out colorful fall prairie wildflowers

Fall has arrived with its cooler temperatures. There is so much beauty to see in the outdoors this time of year. Most of us think about fall beauty coming in the form of leaves turning. The bright explosion of color from trees changing colors is not the only beauty to be found in the fall.

When most of us think of flowers in the fall we most likely think of mums, but there is so much more to fall flowers than just this one flower. Some of the most beautiful colors can be seen in the prairies found throughout Illinois. The prairies around the state provide a splash of yellows, purples and blues as the weather begins to cool. The flowers that we see provide a much-needed food source for pollinators as they either prepare for winter or as they begin their migration south to warmer climates. These flowers are just as important for monarch butterflies as the milkweed we plant.

One of the important flowers that blooms in the fall is goldenrod. These tall yellow flowers seem to take over fields August through September and provide late season food for pollinators. There are several species of goldenrod that are common in Illinois. Goldenrod gets a bad rap; these flowers get blamed for seasonal allergies and are often mistaken for ragweed. As a result, it is often destroyed. Goldenrod is in the aster family and are insect pollinated. Ragweed, on the other hand, is wind pollinated which is why it causes seasonal allergies. Goldenrod is an excellent plant to add to your wildflower mix and will keep pollinators coming back through the fall.

One of my personal favorites that adds an added color to your fall wildflowers are asters. There are several species to see and they range in color from white to blue and purple. Asters are often found on the edges of prairies and wooded areas and are some of the only non-yellow flowers we see in the fall. This is an easy flower to add to your wildflower garden and will also invite pollinators throughout fall.

Several species of sunflowers bloom in the fall such as the sawtooth sunflower and the stiff sunflower. Sunflowers are tall and have very interesting leaves and can be found in all types of prairies. If you spend some time in the prairies in the fall you will be impressed with the number of flowers you will see and you will also see a number of pollinators. All of these fall-blooming wildflowers are also great choices for your gardens and flowerbeds.

If you have any questions about fall wildflowers or about natural resources, please contact Jason Haupt at jdhaupt@illinois.edu.