Plants and Wildlife
Some of the best remaining examples of native Illinois ecosystems are right here in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. About 55,000 acres of the 69,000 acres of preserves are in a natural state (the other 14,000 is used for parking lots, picnic groves, nature centers, and such). The forest preserves of Cook County contain thousands of plants and animals that are unique only to this area. Check out some of our favorite flora, fauna, and locations in the preserves.
Our Favorite Plants and Wildlife
These playful members of the weasel family were once eradicated from Cook County and most of Illinois. Thanks to a recovery project that improved water quality in local waterways, they’re now making a comeback.
Black Crowned Night Heron
This attractive heron forages by night for fish, amphibians and invertebrates. It’s endangered in the state of Illinois but can be found nesting in colonies in the Calumet region and other parts of Cook County.
Blue Spotted Salamander
What’s black with turquoise spots and lives in a forest preserve near you? It’s the blue spotted salamander. If grabbed by a predator, it can leave its wriggling tail behind to distract the attacker while it makes its escape. Don’t worry; it will grow back.
A keystone species of local woods, white oaks are a major food source for literally thousands of species of birds, mammals and insects. It’s also the state tree of Illinois.
The amazing compass plant can put up a flower stalk that’s taller than you! Its tough leaves are oriented with their blades running north/south. This allows the plant to maximize exposure to sunlight while minimizing evaporation.
Eastern White Fringed Orchid
Threatened and endangered species aren’t just found in the Amazon Rainforest or the savannas of Africa. Several populations of the federally threatened Eastern White Fringed Orchid survive in Cook County. Volunteers pollinate them by hand to ensure their survival.