Plants of the Chicago Region

Nearly 2,700 different species of vascular plants are recorded in the 24 counties of the Chicago Region. There are an additional 300 subspecies, varieties, or forms. Within these 3,000 taxa, approximately 1650 taxa (55% of flora) are native. Considering the relatively small physical area of the Region, this is a surprisingly large number of species of vascular plants.

detail view of spore cases on leaf.

Vascular Plants are the majority of plants we see: wildflowers, grasses, trees, shrubs, vines, and ferns. Many plants are perennial, living for several years to hundreds of years. Other plants are annual or biennial, growing from seed and living one or two seasons. Identification of plants is based on the whole organism, the reproductive structures (flowers, cones, or sporangia), the leaves, stems, and even the form of the roots.

The Kingdom Plantae [external link] is comprised of several major groups. Most plants treated here are angiosperms, the flowering plants. The conifers and other gymnosperms lack flowers. The ferns, horsetails, clubmosses, and spikemosses are vascular plants that lack seeds.

Plants not included in vPlants at the present time

The bryophytes, that is the mosses, liverworts, and hornworts, are not yet included in vPlants. Also absent are the various groups of green algae, the basal members of the plant kingdom.

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Information provided on this page applies to the Chicago Region and may not be relevant or complete for other regions.