Big Bluestem

Image of Big Bluestem
The land that was to become the State of Illinois was once two-thirds covered by prairie. Big Bluestem (Adropogon gerardii) may have been the most widespread and abundant grass on the prairie. Big Bluestem grows in such tall and dense stands that it often outcompetes other grasses.

Wood Samples and Trunk Photographs

Image of Wood Samples and Trunk
Identification guidebooks put information about plant and animal species in the palm of our hands. This identification guide, however, is quite unique. Instead of a book, this field guide is a box. Local ornithologist Benjamin T. Gault created this portable guide to help him with his fieldwork.

Cultivated Plants

Image of several plants cultivated by native people.
Given how crucial they were in the development of North American agriculture, it's ironic that today these plants are considered to be unexceptional. Two of the specimens were collected along roadsides, and one was collected along a railroad right of way. Another is referred to, without ceremony, as a weed. But these plants sowed the seeds of what would be the domestication of plants, a change that laid the foundation for agricultural societies to develop.


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