Chris Benda is a botanist and past president of the Illinois Native Plant Society (2015-2016).  Currently, he works as a Researcher at Southern Illinois University, where he coordinates the Plants of Concern Southern Illinois Program and teaches The Flora of Southern Illinois.  A native of Minnesota, Chris moved to Illinois from California in 2004 and received a Master's Degree in Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign in 2007.  Besides working at SIU, he conducts botanical fieldwork around the world, teaches a variety of classes at The Morton Arboretum, and leads nature tours for Camp Ondessonk.  He has research appointments with the University of Illinois and Argonne National Laboratory, and is an accomplished photographer and author of several publications about natural areas in Illinois.  He is also known as Illinois Botanizer and can be reached by email at botanizer@gmail.com.

LinkedIn profile

Professional Affiliations


Illinois Botanizer in the Media

May 26, 2021 - Discovery At Touch of Nature radio interview for WSIU radio (local NPR station).

May 3, 2021 - Celebrating champion trees in Illinois news clip for WAND TV.

April 22, 2021 - Take a walk outside and enjoy spring flowers news clip for WAND TV.

March 4, 2021 - The Original Prairie with the Illinois Botanizer Chris Benda video for The Sun Foundation.

January 12, 2021 - Illinois Pioneer Cemetery Prairies for the LaSalle Public Library.

October 8, 2020 - Real Green People: Rob Rothrock created a 15-acre prairie on his property near Pomona in The Southern newspaper.

September 16, 2020 - Wild Ones presents virtual program on cemetery prairies in northern Illinois in The Rock River Times.

May 10, 2020 - Meet the Illinois Botanizer in The Southern newspaper

April 9, 2020 - Natural History of Spring Ephemeral Wildflowers YouTube recording for Illinois Environmental Council

August 10, 2019 - wildflower walk for the 150th anniversary in the town of Riverside YouTube video "Olmsted Society: Walk with the Illinois Botanizer"

August 10, 2019 - presentation for the 150th anniversary in the town of Riverside YouTube video "Illinois Wildflowers for the Home Garden."

August 2019 - Partners (Illinois Farm Bureau magazine) "Illinois Cemetery Prairies"

January 10 & 11, 2019 - WSIU two part radio interview about hiking the River to River Trail across southern Illinois.

November 14th, 2018 - Nature in Chicagoland blog

WINTER 2018 - Illinois Audubon magazine "Creating a Pollinator-friendly Yard" (digital copy unavailable)

August 4, 2017 - Chicago Tribune:  In pioneer cemeteries, a disappearing part of Illinois' landscape lives on

May 9, 2017 - The Southern: Native Plant are Vital for Wildlife 

February 8, 2017 - University of Illinois Extension: LEARN HOW TO PLANT NATIVES WITH CHRIS BENDA

February 4th, 2017 - Allsup: Make plans for Home/Garden show

September 19, 2016 - Chicago Is Home To More Super-Rare Plants Than You Might Think

June 21, 2016 - Illinois Cemetery Prairies (part 2) - RFD Radio Network

June 20, 2016 - Illinois Cemetery Prairies (part 1) - RFD Radio Network

May 21, 2016 - 2016 Wildflower Walks on the Shawnee National Forest - RFD Radio Network

May 9, 2016 - Rim Rock National Recreation Trail - RFD Radio Network

April 16, 2016 - Piney Creek Ravine Nature Preserve - RFD Radio Network

March 29, 2016 - LaRue Pine Hills - RFD Radio Network

February 19, 2016 - There are many good reasons to use native plants in your landscape

February 7, 2016 - In Defense of Plants podcast, Botanizing Illinois

January 30, 2016 - Free program at Giant City State Park features wild orchids

December 31, 2015 - A Look Back at 2015: The Natural Areas of Southern Illinois

October 25, 2015 - Chicago Region Trees Initiative (Oaktober 2015)

October 23, 2015 - WSIU Almanac

July 4, 2015 - A Wildflower Hike with Chris Benda at Dixon Springs State Park

May 13, 2015 - Little Known Preserve Offers an Array of Spring Wildflowers

August 29, 2014 - Wildflowers in bloom despite stifling heat

July 14, 2014 - Wildflower Walk: Ozark Hills

Celebrating Wildflowers - Eastern Viewing Region - Ohio River National Scenic Byway


"I went to his session at the Wild Things conference last weekend. He was speaking about remnant prairies!! Very good speaker."  - Pam Carrington Chism on Facebook

"Funny, wil definitely follow his blogs and website.  Informative, good sense of humor.  Very knowledgeable, entertaining, and inspirational." - Feedback from 2019 Illinois Association of Conservation Districts conference