Plant conservation at the Morton Arboretum focuses on conserving plant diversity of the Chicago region at the community and species level. This work falls within four broad categories:

Understanding the historic pattern and structure of vegetation is critical to its restoration and management. To address these needs, we are reconstructing Chicago region historic vegetation based on data collected by the U.S. Public Land Survey in the early 1800s. We are addressing how the spatial pattern and structure of this vegetation, as well as woody species composition, fit a landscape fire model, with fire-sensitive communities and species restricted to landscape fire breaks. (more..)

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Chicago region vegetation is organized across a soil moisture gradient, and is thought to have been originally patterned by landscape-scale fire. Our work with natural remnants asks: how plant species are distributed across the Chicago region? How do they assemble into different communities that can be identified and maintained in a natural state? and how is this vegetation changing over time, especially in response to fire exclusion and management? These questions have very practical ramifications for understanding, managing and restoring native vegetation. (more..)

Management and restoration of rare plants has become critical for insuring their long-term survival. Our work with rare plants asks: What ecological and biological factors can be managed to help maintain or restore populations? What are practical ways to restore different plant species populations?, What genetic factors affect restoration potential? and Do restored populations have long-term viability? Much of our work has been with three federal listed species: Meadís milkweed, Pitcherís thistle, and the eastern prairie fringed orchid.  (more..)

Our work with pre-European and modern vegetation indicates strong fire-dependence and significant long-term degradation with fire protection. Consequently, we are investigating effects of fire management on prairie, wetland, savanna and forest vegetation. (more..)