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This rare flower grows almost exclusively in the Illinois River Valley

Michael Budd
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The banks of the Illinois River are just about the only place in the world you can spot a decurrent false aster growing in its natural habitat.

The small, daisy-like white flower is also known as the claspingleaf doll's daisy. Its historical range included much of Illinois and Missouri. But the actions of humans impeded much of its growth potential.

"Habitat destruction and modification has really kept it here in the Illinois River," said Emily Hodapp, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "So on the Mississippi, we've have major levee systems that have not allowed the plant to reach into those natural floodplains. And the same thing has happened on the Illinois River, as well."

Today, the flower is considered a threatened species. Changes to the natural flood cycles hindered the plant's ability to flourish, Hodapp said.

That's why she's working to plant new seeds in the decurrent false aster's natural range as part of floodplain habitat restoration efforts.

Hodapp said she is working with the Nature Conservancy and the Wetlands Initiative to spread new seeds at the Emiquon Nature Preserve in Fulton County and the Spunky Bottoms Preserve in Brown County.

She also works with private landowners . Hodapp said duck clubs with property along the Illinois River usually have prime property for restoring the natural floodplain. That provides benefits for both the decurrent false aster, and the clubs.

Restoring the floodplain provides a lot of benefits, Hodapp said.

"It's important for not only just for the threatened flower that I'm working with, but it also helps make habitat for other wet prairie-type plants, as well as ducks and geese, and pollinators," she said. "All of those need that intact wetlands to survive."

The decurrent false aster typically blooms in late summer and early autumn.

"So in August in September, just look for those beautiful yellow discs in the center of the flowers, and then those adorable little petals around the outside," said Hodapp.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.