Native Plants Biodiversity:  Our Record!


   In this, the 22nd year of our Wildflower Sanctuary project we can with assurance declare huge successes in our mission to restore Biodiversity to this peninsula — an area which was a sad example of a few alien trees and plant species invading a degraded landscape and then declaring victory over the native environment.

    In 1991 a small group of amateur gardeners discovered, during the building of the Batavia Riverwalk, a wooded area that was a hopeless tangle of Buckthorns and Chinese Mulberry trees; a rocky hillside covered with Garlic Mustard; and a shoreline filled with Purple Loosestrife. They decided to take on the enormous project of restoring the area.  They proceeded with just a few small garden plots... and the project took off from there! . . .     Today the entire north-end perimeter of the peninsula (north of the Cut) is filled with huge numbers of native tree and plant species!

    Despite many setbacks and fewer volunteers, this area is now a thriving example of healthy biodiversity and of a truly natural and historic environment!

Successfully Introduced

Native Kane County Species:

[From Report, end 2009]

Tree Species:            20 

Shrub Species:           21

Herbaceous Species*

(Forbes/Ferns/Grasses/Sedges):               175

Total Native  Species introduced since 1991:     216 **

   Our Varied Native Plant Habitats!

A very special aspect of our Wildflower Sanctuary is that the entire area around the Riverwalk peninsula is comprised of 5 (five!) different “micro-habitats”: A Prairie, a Woodland, a Rock Shelf, a Savannah, and a Floodplain.  This fact gives us, as gardeners, a wonderful education in plant diversity. It is also a unique and valuable teaching tool for the student tours that we lead, as well as for the community at large.

Volunteers and the

Wildflower Sanctuary

    The Wildflower Sanctuary on the Batavia Riverwalk is a joint project of the Batavia Plain Dirt Gardeners Organization and the Batavia Park District. The project was begun by volunteers in 1971 and has been maintained and expanded by volunteer efforts ever since.

   Additional volunteers are always needed . . . for adoption of “Orphan Plots” as well as for special work sessions throughout the year. There are all kinds of work to do from weeding out something like the invasive Garlic Mustard; to restoring rock, garden paths; to planting new plants; to watering trees and plants during dry seasons; to hauling brush or mulch for the plot gardeners; etc., etc., etc!

   And in the process, you’ll learn about our native plant heritage; you’ll get to know and enjoy the natural environment of our “sanctuary”; and you’ll be contributing to the well-being of our community! . . . So, try us out!

    (Although it seems as if we have many volunteers, we are spread very thin over a large area and over a long growing season.)

    For work day schedules, send your name and email address to Nancy and Ed Weiss, Wildflower Project coordinators: Email us at . . .

Be a Volunteer  For Nature!

The Wildflower Sanctuary on the Batavia Riverwalk

Premier Project of the Batavia Plain Dirt Gardeners!

The extensive native plants gardens which encircle the northern tip of the Batavia Riverwalk peninsula are the premier project of the Batavia Plain Dirt Gardeners. It was with this ambitious public gardening project, affectionately named “The Wildflower Sanctuary,” that the organization was born back in 1991.

Volunteers of all ages and abilities came together at that time to build on their dream of transforming the then degraded thicket of Buckthorn shrubs into a rich native landscape which they knew had graced this Fox River shoreline prior to industrialization. Those hearty individuals, and many who followed, have since then battled countless invasive plant and tree species and have planted thousands of diverse native forbs, shrubs, and trees.

In the beginning, substantial plant and seed donations came from the gardeners themselves, from owners of woodland acreages, from nurseries, and from the Illinois Dept. of Conservation.  The early gardeners then began staging small plant sales to earn money for more supplies . . . and the group soon became “The Batavia Plain Dirt Gardeners!” Native trees, forbs, and gardening supplies continue to be purchased each year with funds earned at the club’s popular Plant Sales and Garden Walks.

Through the years the native plants gardens have grown from several woodland plots on the east side of the peninsula to a wide variety of garden types around the north and west sides as well.  On this relatively small area of the peninsula, the project has revealed a remarkable five distinct plant habitats: Woodland; Prairie; Rock Shelf; Floodplain; and Savannah!  Because the gardeners have learned to plant the appropriate species for these habitats, the gardens have become a notable demonstration of Nature’s amazing diversity.

The Wildflower Sanctuary today is a place where people come from all around our community and beyond in order to study the native plants and trees of Kane County; to enjoy the native birds and the wildlife that are attracted to this environment; or to just savor the tranquility and the beauty of Nature.  And every year the gardeners lead numerous groups of grade school children through the Wildflower Sanctuary, helping to impart to our youth an appreciation and understanding of the natural world –– so important in our lives today!

Note: We offer free tours of the Wildflower Sanctuary to interested groups and clubs. We also have volunteer opportunities for young people and adults, groups and individuals.  For further information, please contact the Native Plants Project Coordinators,

Nancy and Ed Weiss, at 630-879-9419.


Second Graders’ Tours of the Wildflower Sanctuary on the Batavia Riverwalk

The 2nd graders’ Tours that we conduct each spring are our main educational efforts. In the Batavia Public Schools, the children in the second grade have a basic unit about plants; so their tours serve nicely to reinforce what they learned plus giving them a direct experience with Nature — something that many young people these days seem to be lacking.

         Second Graders’ 2010 Tours Report

by 2nd Grade Tours Coordinator,

Gail Trefil, June 21, 2010:

Eight classes visited the WFS this spring (that's about 165 children, plus parents) from Alice Gustafson School, H.C. Storm School, and one class from Louise White School (One LWS tour cancelled due to a rainstorm).  Our faithful volunteer guides were Ron, Ruth, Martha, Leslie, Nancy, Gail,and Jeanne. 

Teens Involvement:

      High School Helpers:  When Batavia High School students come to help us at the WFS, they are also getting an important lesson in biology.  Talking to  them and working with them we try hard to impart our goal of restoring past biodiversity in order to counteract the negative effects of monocultures on our environment!

. . Science teacher Mrs. Detrick says the students always return very enthusiastic about the work (and we’re always happy about the terrific work they do for us!).

    We have also had work sessions, in the past, with teen volunteers from Rosary High School, from Marmion Academy, and from the Math Science Academy in Aurora. They have all been very positive experiences for all!

  1. *Note: The Herbaceous Species inventory has not been updated since the floods of ’07 & ’08; however, only a very few species were, at that time, totally wiped out in every location.

** Note: The Speckled Alder was one of our tree species that was wiped out by the floods.

   There has been some evidence, however, that those particular trees were not actually the native species after all – perhaps a mistake by the supplier. They were likely the European or Black Alder species.

We are still investigating this . . . Meanwhile, offspring from those trees have been appearing in recent years — in the same location!