Illinois Botanists Big Year 2020

Illinois Botanists Big Year Homepage

Find the most plant species in Illinois in 2020 and rejoice in your victory!

And the winner is…

Abel Kinser (@abelkinser) with 978 species!

As of 16 January 2021, @abelkinser had 1,301 Research Grade observations of 978 species for 2020. Congrats!

2020 Illinois Botanists Big Year Stats

5,930 observers
75,280 Research Grade observations of plants – 33% by people who had joined the project
2,000 species
1,960 identifiers

The Illinois Botanists Big Year is an annual friendly competition of the Illinois Native Plant Society to see how many species you can find in a single year in Illinois. The main goals of the project are to spark discovery in people of any age and experience, encouraging them to stop to look at plants they might have otherwise have passed by, as well as to create connections and build camaraderie among plant enthusiasts, share knowledge, and contribute to a growing database of the flora of Illinois. The year 2020 was its fifth year: 86 people joined the project, comprising around 33% of the qualifying observations.

The Illinois Botanists Big Year only looks at Research Grade observations (those that have identifications that have been confirmed by at least one other person), a rough tool to ensure a level of data quality. For 2020, only around half of the qualifying observations of plants have reached Research Grade in Illinois so far. A huge huge thank you to the many identifiers who spend their time helping with this process. And a sustained call to action for anyone and everyone to help with identification. Even a rough ID like “plant”, “dicot”, “sunflower family”, or “goldenrod” can be incredibly helpful to narrow it down. πŸ™‚

Anyway. Lots of other stats and fun graphics below. Congrats and well wishes for 2021 to you all.

Most Species

  1. @abelkinser β€“ 978
  2. @sanguinaria33 β€“ 731
  3. @wildlandblogger β€“ 722
  4. @johnhboldt β€“ 713
  5. @elfaulkner β€“ 592
  6. @adriansydor β€“ 577
  7. @psweet β€“ 537
  8. @sedge β€“ 477
  9. @dziomber– 444
  10. @benzerante β€“ 433

Most Observations

  1. @johnhboldt β€“ 3,239
  2. @wildlandblogger β€“ 1,749
  3. @benzerante β€“ 1,459
  4. @abelkinser β€“ 1,301
  5. @sanguinaria33 β€“ 1,176
  6. @brdnrdr β€“ 1,084
  7. @psweet β€“ 1,049
  8. @taco2000 β€“ 1,020
  9. @vnevirkov β€“ 934
  10. @sedge β€“ 916

Most IDs

Most identifications for other people (IDs on plant observations in Illinois in 2020):

  1. @abelkinser β€“ 10,835
  2. @adriansydor β€“ 9,473
  3. @mcaple β€“ 7,773
  4. @bouteloua β€“ 6,230
  5. @sedge β€“ 5,426
  6. @tkoffel β€“ 3,749
  7. @k2018lena β€“ 3,654
  8. @wildlandblogger β€“ 3,585
  9. @micahbowman β€“ 2,619
  10. @elfaulkner β€“ 2,112

Most Improving IDs

That is the number of times they were first-to-ID a species that the community subsequently agreed with (improving IDs on plant observations in Illinois in 2020):

  1. @mcaple β€“ 2,070
  2. @adriansydor β€“ 1,314
  3. @sedge β€“ 1,150
  4. @k2018lena β€“ 1,051
  5. @bouteloua β€“ 773
  6. @abelkinser β€“ 702
  7. @tkoffel β€“ 464
  8. @micahbowman β€“ 395
  9. @wildlandblogger β€“ 367
  10. @elfaulkner β€“ 349

The Most-observed Plant

Trillium recurvatum, prairie trillium!

Observation by @danielpohl in Winnebago County

Some of my other favorite observations of this species in 2020 were this lovely portrait by @jawinget and this oddball two-flowered individual by @robbmiller@joelmc made these neat visualizations of prairie trillium observations over the year:


Observations per County

Check out that per capita density in southern Illinois. And poor little Edwards County only has a total of 5 plant observations ever.

Observations per Day

As you might expect, the warmer months have quite a bit more activity. πŸ™‚ Those dark purple days in late April are the City Nature Challenge. Are you participating in 2021?

The 100 Club

Botanizers who made Research Grade observations of over 100 species of plants in Illinois in 2020:

@abelkinser @adriansydor @alexandradestria @andrewhipp @averyshikanai @benzerante @berna @bouteloua @brandoncorder @brdnrdr @carolt-80 @cmidden @crwrcwamt @d_coulter @daltonk @damo87 @danielpohl @dicot1 @dziomber @eattaway92 @elfaulkner @hazelgrouse4 @hortusmax @irmela @jayell @jenhugstrees @jnelson7408 @joelmc @johnhboldt @justwanderin @k2018lena @k3outdoors @kathleensoler2 @kennedy9094 @laniarius @maureenclare @meganhanson @micahbowman @missgreen @mmasell @mn2010 @mrostrowski @mycorrhizael_fungal @naturalist_glenn @nicothoe @outdoorsie @paulroots @professorbeech @psweet @rafaelurbinacasanova @rarecatsnake @redadmiral98 @rgraveolens @rin_nd @robbmiller @ruthmetterhausen @sanguinaria33 @sedge @taco2000 @tararat @themothergooz @timfelinski0251 @tofish4 @ungulateunion @vnevirkov @wildernessbarbie @wildlandblogger @woodridgejeff

The Favoritest Observations

The most faved observation was, at no surprise to Bella, this photo of my dog eating plantain leavesTen observations tied for second with three faves each. A few of them:

Top left: Trillium nivale (snow trillium) by @wildlandblogger in Vermilion County
Top right: Asclepias meadii (Mead’s milkweed) by @sanguinaria33 in Vermilion County
Bottom left: Lithospermum canescens (hoary puccoon) by @calumetkathleen in Cook County
Bottom center: Verbena bracteata (prostrate vervain) by @sedge in Champaign County
Bottom right: Circaea canadensis (enchanter’s nightshade) by @micahbowman in Winnebago County

More “Mosts”

The Sedgehead: Most species in the genus Carex@sanguinaria33 with 41 species!

The Grassmaster: Most species within the family Poaceae@abelkinser with 95 species!

The Compositor: Most species within the family Asteraceae@abelkinser with 141 species!

The Sporophyte: Most species outside of flowering plants, Magnoliophyta)@abelkinser with 70 species!

Species New to Illinois on iNat

Dozens of species new to iNat in Illinois this year. A few listed below:

and finally…

Don’t forget to join the 2021 project!

Thanks to all for sharing your plant explorations this year!

β€”@bouteloua (cassi saari) with cool charts and graphs from @joelmc


The year 2020 marks the fifth annual Illinois Botanists Big Year. Anyone may participate, from professional botanist to plant identification novice, by uploading photographic proof of their plant sightings to an online database: iNaturalist. Through the website or mobile apps, botanical enthusiasts upload photos, a species identification, GPS location, date of sighting, and field notes. Since other iNaturalist users can help with identification, participants need not be plant experts and can learn quite a bit about plants just by snapping photos and engaging with the community.

How to join in the fun: Add your plant observations to the website or iPhone/Android app and it’ll automatically count toward the contest if it meets the rules below. Join the conversation on the Illinois Botanists Big Year Facebook group.


  1. Must be a plant (bryophytes and vascular plants – native and non-native species are accepted)
  2. Observation must be within Illinois
  3. Must be observed between the dates of January 1st, 2020 and December 31st, 2020 (and uploaded by January 15th, 2021)
  4. Observation must be “research grade.” That means it must be β€œwild/naturalized” and that you need a photo, date, location, and at least two people to agree on the species, to confirm the identification accuracy

Nature newbie? No worries – we will help identify any plants you see. Don’t have a smartphone? You can upload photos through the website without need for a smartphone. Just take a photo and upload it to and identify as best as you can, even if that’s just “plant.”

Winning Categories:

Help others get to research grade by identifying or confirming their observations!


Previous Years: