Illinois Tollway adding native plants and flowers along its roads to support threatened butterflies and bees


The Illinois Tollway not only builds and maintains roads — it also enhances the ecosystem around its roads by adding native plants that help support threatened butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

The colorful results of that work can be seen springing up all along the 294-mile Tollway system.

Earlier this year, 13,000 native plants were added to the low-lying basins and swales along the Illinois Route 390 Tollway in DuPage County.

An even larger planting project occurred along the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), where 33,000 native plants have been installed in swales along the roadway since last fall.

A diverse mix of pollinator seeds was planted along 15 miles of the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) that will produce a blend of brightly-colored prairie plants, including the Sky Blue Aster and yellow Prairie Coreopsis. 

Another four acres along the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355) were seeded with pollinator plants, as well as and flowering trees and shrubs.

Closer to home, the Tollway has created a demonstration pollinator garden at its Downers Grove headquarters that contains 3,000 perennial plants, including an unusual yellow-colored butterflyweed which is in the Milkweed family and typically produces orange flowers.  All these plants provide shelter and food for the monarch butterflies. This summer, we’ve already a monarch caterpillar, who has found a temporary home among the milkweed.

Want to see the results for yourself? Check the Tollway’s Instagram account, where we will be posting photos of some of the other prairie plants we’ve added to make our system greener.