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Rare Plants in Wisconsin Right-of-ways. Presentation prepared by: Wisconsin Transportation Information Center-LTAP University of Wisconsin-Madison. Right-of-ways – A resource for rare plants. Help locate and protect endangered and threatened Wisconsin plants

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rare plants in wisconsin right of ways

Rare Plants in Wisconsin Right-of-ways

Presentation prepared by:

Wisconsin Transportation Information Center-LTAP

University of Wisconsin-Madison

right of ways a resource for rare plants
Right-of-ways – A resource for rare plants
  • Help locate and protect endangered and threatened Wisconsin plants
  • Watch for them during right-of-way work:
      • Mowing
      • Brushing
      • Spraying
      • Utility projects
plants found in many counties

Plants found in many counties

Cream Gentian

Purple Milkweed

cream gentian map
Cream Gentian Map

Found in:

  • Brown, Calumet, Columbia, Crawford,
  • Dane, Dunn, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Iowa,
  • Jefferson, La Crosse, Lafayette, Milwaukee, Monroe,
  • Pepin, Polk, Racine, Richland,
  • St Croix, Sauk, Vernon, Walworth, and Waukesha

Historical in Chippewa, Dodge, Kenosha, Outagamie, Rock, & Sheboygan

cream gentian or yellowish gentian gentiana alba
Cream Gentian (or Yellowish Gentian)(Gentiana alba)
  • Blooms August-September
  • Flower 
    • Cream-colored – 1- ¼”
    • Tube shape with small opening at top
    • Clusters of many flowers
  • Plant 
    • Upright – 1 to 3 feet tall
    • Sturdy stems
    • Usually not branched
  • Grows in
    • Varied soil and moisture conditions
    • Sometimes found in roadside ditches and railroad rights-of-ways
purple milkweed map
Purple Milkweed Map

Found in:

  • Crawford, Dane, Grant, Iowa, Kenosha, Lafayette,
  • Racine, Rock, Sauk, Walworth,
  • Waukesha, Waushara, & counties

Historical in Jefferson, Milwaukee, Washington, Winnebago

purple milkweed asclepias purpurascens
Blooms June to August


Purple-red flower cluster

Only 1-3 clusters to a plant

Always at or near top of stem

Often produces pods


Tall: 1-1/2 to 6 feet

Looks like common milkweed

Often found in ditches. More likely in dry soil

Purple Milkweed(Asclepias purpurascens)
other important plants and their regions dwarf lake iris forked aster hairy wild petunia

Other important plants and their regionsDwarf Lake IrisForked AsterHairy Wild Petunia

dwarf lake iris map
Dwarf Lake Iris Map

Found in

  • Door & Brown counties

Formerly in Milwaukee County

dwarf lake iris iris lacustris
Dwarf Lake Iris(Iris lacustris)
  • Very rare. Grows only on north shore of Lake Michigan, in Wisconsin.
  • Blooms peak in late May, a few into July
  • Plant
    • Tiny: leaves 6” long
    • Arranged in fans like garden iris
  • Flower
    • Blue-purple (a few white)
    • 3” diameter
    • 3” off the ground
  • Found in ditches with
    • Partial or filtered sun
    • Shallow soils (alkaline)
    • Near white cedars
forked aster map eastern southeastern wisconsin
Forked Aster MapEastern & Southeastern Wisconsin

Found in:

  • Fond du Lac, Milwaukee, Ozaukee,
  • Racine, Rock, Sheboygan,
  • Walworth, Washington, Waukesha

Formerly in Kewaunee & Winnebago

forked aster aster furcatus
Forked Aster(Aster furcatus)
  • Blooms August through October
  • Flower
    • White, star-shaped
    • Tiny: ½ inch across
    • Branched cluster of 9-18 flowers
  • Plant
    • 12"-32" tall
  • Grows in moist woods and edges, often near streams
  • Rare. Only found in part of the Midwest.
hairy wild petunia map southern wisconsin
Hairy Wild Petunia Map Southern Wisconsin

Found in:

  • Crawford, Dane, Grant, Outagamie,
  • Rock, & Winnebago counties

Historical in Walworth

hairy wild petunia ruellia humilis
Hairy Wild Petunia(Ruellia humilis)
  • Blooms May to October
    • Looks like garden petunia
  • Flowers
    • Pink - purple
    • Small: 1-1/4 inch wide
    • Funnel shaped
  • Plant
    • Upright
    • Short: 3"-18"Often less than 12”
  • Has been found along roadsides
protected no mow area
ProtectedNo-mow area
  • Signs outline protected area
  • Use general term: “Native Plants”
  • Exact location not publicized
other endangered or threatened plants that may appear in roadsides
Other endangered or threatened plants that may appear in roadsides
  • North & northeastern counties
    • Arrow-leaf Sweet Coltsfoot
  • Southern & eastern counties
    • Pale Purple Coneflower
    • Yellow Giant Hyssop
    • Pink Milkwort
  • Milwaukee & Racine counties
    • Axillary Goldenrod
arrow leaf sweet coltsfoot map northern wisconsin
Arrow-leaf Sweet Coltsfoot Map Northern Wisconsin

Found in:

  • Bayfield, Douglas,
  • Forest, & Oconto counties
arrow leaf sweet coltsfoot petasites sagittatus
Arrow-leaf Sweet Coltsfoot(Petasites sagittatus)
  • Blooms May-June
  • Flowers
    • Small: ½ inch
    • White
  • Plant
    • Large leaves: 12 inches
    • Arrow shaped
  • Grows in wet areas
pale purple coneflower map southern wisconsin
Pale Purple Coneflower MapSouthern Wisconsin

Found in:

  • Dane, Grant, Green,
  • Racine, & Rock counties
pale purple coneflower echinacea pallida
Pale Purple Coneflower(Echinacea pallida)
  • Blooms June to August
  • Flowers
    • Drooping
    • Purple
    • One to a stem
  • Plant
    • Tall: 2 to 3 feet
    • Several stems in a cluster
  • Grows in full sun; dry to moderate moisture; sandy, loam soil
giant yellow hyssop map southern wisconsin
Giant Yellow Hyssop Map Southern Wisconsin

Found in:

  • Columbia, Crawford, Dane
  • Grant, Green, Lafayette,
  • Racine, Rock, & Walworth counties

Historical in Jefferson

giant yellow hyssop agastache nepetoides
Giant Yellow Hyssop(Agastache nepetoides)
  • Blooms July through October
  • Flower
    • Cylindrical spikes
    • Green-yellow 5-parted
  • Plant
    • Tall: 2 to 5 feet
    • Resembles catnip
    • Square stem. Mint family
pink milkwort map southern wisconsin
Pink Milkwort Map Southern Wisconsin

Found in:

  • Grant, Green, & Rock counties

Historical or formerly found in Crawford, Dane, Iowa, Jefferson, Kenosha

pink milkwort polygala incarnata
Pink Milkwort(Polygala incarnata)

Blooms early July to mid-September


    • Pink
    • Small spiky cluster ½”-1-1/2”
    • Single stems with distinct bluish-green color
  • Plant
    • Height: 8”-24”. Often less than 12”
  • Grows in dry soils
  • Nearly extinct in Wisconsin
axillary goldenrod solidago caesia
Axillary Goldenrod(Solidago caesia)

Blooms August to October


  • Cream to yellow
  • Short clustersusually 3-4
  • Where leaf joins stem


  • Upright
  • Tall: 12"-40”

May grow in ditches if next to woods, semi shaded

why help preserve wisconsin threatened and endangered plants
Why help preserve Wisconsin threatened and endangered plants?
  • Promote biodiversity – a natural mix of many different species which provide for a healthy environment.
  • Protect historic plants and habitats for future generations
  • Preserve plants important to butterflies and other insects
  • Preserve plants which may be future sources for medicines, treatments, etc.
  • Help maintain a varied and attractive landscape
what you can do
What you can do
  • Contact your local DNR Transportation Liaison or Regional Ecologist to find out more
  • Mark right-of-ways once a species is identified
    • Local citizens and groups may be available to help
  • Protect by timed mowing or no-mow area
  • Alert crews doing brushing, digging, spraying, and utility work
  • Comply with administrative rule (NR27) and state statute
    • It is illegal to remove, transport, carry away, cut, root up, sever, injure or destroy a wild plant on the Wisconsin Endangered and Threatened Species List on public lands (which includes public right-of-ways). Section 29.604, Wis. Stats.
Department of Natural Resources

Regional Ecologists

Armund BartzWestcentral Region608.785.9019Owen BoyleSoutheast Region414.263.8681

Sarah CarterSouthcentral Region608.275.3276


Northeast Region

Ted GostomskiNorthern Region715.635.4153

Transportation Liaisons

Get current list by county of responsibility at:


Online plants information

Wisconsin DNR, The Natural Heritage Inventory Working List: Rare Vascular Plants


Click on “Threatened and Endangered Species” and then on “Vascular Plants.” Click on the scientific name for details. No search function.

UW-Stevens Point Freckman Herbarium


Includes identifying information, photos and maps with town and range number locations of known plant populations, and links to other online resources. This is a general herbarium site covering 200,000 Wisconsin plants. search for common or scientific plant name under “vascular plants”



  • Rare Plants in Wisconsin Right-of-Ways, PowerPoint presentation, prepared by Lynn Entine, Senior Editor, Wisconsin Transportation Information Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison.http://tic.engr.wisc.edu
  • Plant location maps (updated Feb. 2006): Craig Anderson, Wisconsin DNR, Natural Heritage Inventory Botanist
  • Coordination: Shelly Schaetz, Wisconsin DNR Transportation Liaison (Northeast)
  • Photos:
    • Gentian:Thomas G. Barnes @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
    • Milkweed:Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
    • Iris:Clayton Alway @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
    • Aster:Kitty Kohout, UW-Stevens Point
    • Petunia:Plants and roadside (summer): Patrick J. Robinson, Wisconsin DNR; Sign on roadside: Michelle M. Schaetz, Wisconsin DNR
    • Coltsfoot:June M. Dobberpuhl, UW-Stevens Point
    • Coneflower:James R. Sine, UW-Stevens Point
    • Hyssop:Kathie and Tom Brock, UW-Stevens Point
    • Milkwort:Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
    • Goldenrod:Kitty Kohout, UW-Stevens Point