Plants of Concern

Citizen Science Rare Plant Monitoring Program


Volunteers in the field

Launched in 2001, Plants of Concern (POC) is a long-term rare plant monitoring initiative that is unique to the region in its use of standardized monitoring protocols implemented by trained citizen scientists. The program was initially established to address the need to understand rare species trends, set forth by the Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan. Since that time, POC has continued and expanded this important work. With over 280 species and 1100 populations monitored to date, POC is making significant progress towards four major program goals:

  • Collect standardized monitoring data on most of northeast Illinois’ known rare-plant populations
    Through 2014, POC has collected data on 70% of the populations of listed (endangered and threatened) species known in Illinois, as well as on populations of 100 non-listed, regionally rare species.
  • Educate adults about rare plants and rare plant monitoring
    Over 800 volunteers have been trained in POC protocol over the life of the program, and this number grows every year. We retain about 60% of our volunteer citizen scientists from year to year, and many of these valuable partners report to us that they learn about rare plants and local ecology from their participation in the program.
  • Collaborate with public and private landowners
    We’ve worked with 130 landowners, including forest preserve districts, departments of natural resources, land trusts, non-profits, and private landowners. Rare plant population data collected at these sites is shared with the landowners, creating a mutually beneficial partnership.
  • Engage researchers in analysis and use of POC’s long-term datasets
    The data collected by POC is a trove of valuable information, and we strive to partner with researchers who can help us learn more from it. Visit our Research page to learn about some of the scientists we’ve partnered with and what they’ve helped us learn.