Contact Chris Benda at or 217-417-4145.







Program and Workshop Options

A Day in the Life of a Field Biologist
 Ever wonder what life is like as field biologist?  Join botanist Chris Benda as he presents a program about the challenges and rewards of working outside in nature for a living.  

Best of Illinois Botanizer's Nature photos of 20xx
 Chris Benda (aka Illinois Botanizer) travels the state each year and photographs the wonderful diversity of plants and animals that make their home in Illinois.  He will present a program with his best nature images from the current calendar year.  

Botanical Humor: You Never Knew Plants Were So Funny
  Join Chris Benda (a.k.a. Illinois Botanizer) for a delightful presentation about plants.   Chris has been teaching about plants for over 10 years and during that time has developed a unique teaching style that includes lots of puns, jokes, and whimsical pop culture references.   This presentation will be sure to keep you entertained and equipped with fun ways to teach others about plants. 

Botany 101 (designed for Master Naturalist training)
  This workshop is designed to introduce participants to plant identification, with emphasis on native plants in Illinois.  After introducing botanical terms and concepts, the instructor will offer a classroom activity, as well as hands on field instruction.  

Ecology of Spring Ephemeral Wildflowers
  The onset of spring brings beautiful wildflowers to the woodlands of Illinois and Illinois is home to a rich variety of common and rare spring ephemeral wildflowers.  They are called "ephemeral" because the flowers typically only occur for a couple weeks in the spring before disappearing for the rest of the year.  These plants deploy an amazing array of strategies to deal with the challenges of living on the forest floor.  This talk will cure your winter blues by discussing the myriad of adaptations by these interesting plants.

Flora of the Illinois Coastal Plain
  Extreme southern Illinois is the northern extension of the Coastal Plain Natural Division, a plant communtity comprised of various types of bottomland forests and swamps.  Many plant species occur at the northern edge of their range here including Bald Cypress and Water Tupelo.  The presence of this natural community type in Illinois adds hundreds of species to the state's flora. Join botanist Chris Benda as he presents a slideshow of rare and unusual plants present in this area. 

Hidden Natural Treasures of Illinois
  Illinois is large and biologically diverse with many pristine natural areas located across the state.  Join botanist Chris Benda for a tour of the unique natural areas and rare plants that can be found in the 14 different natural divisions in Illinois.  This program will highlight places you never knew existed, with emphasis on the plants and animals of Illinois.

Hiking the River to River Trail Across Southern Illinois
 In December 2018 Chris hiked the River to River trail from Elizabethtown on the Ohio River to Grand Tower on the Mississippi River and blogged about it as he hiked.  Join him as he explains the challenges of this thru-hike, as well as the ecology of the land and plants observed along the trail.    

Illinois Pioneer Cemetery Prairies
  Despite being called "The Prairie State" Illinois has very little pristine prairie remaining.  A majority of the highly productive black soil prairie has been converted to agricultural uses.  Many small high quality examples currently exist in pioneer cemetery prairies and some are protected as Illinois Nature Preserves.  Learn about this priceless component of Illinois' natural heritage during this program by botanist Chris Benda.  

Plant Blindness: What is it and what can we do?
  Humans owe their survival to the existence of plants, yet this group of organisms is largely ignored by the public. For instance, children can recognize some conspicuous animals, as well as many corporate logos, but typically only very few plants, if any. This program will introduce the concept of "plant blindness," which is the inability to pay attention to and understand the amazing diversity of plants that surround us every day  

Plant Monitoring 101
  This hands-on workshop will teach participants how to conduct quantitative vegetation sampling.  We will discuss sampling design and perform sampling techniques in the field.  No prior experience is necessary and all equipment will be provided by the instructor.

Rare and Showy Plants of the Chicago Region and the Habitats that Support Them
  Despite intensive urbanization and development, the Chicago Region is a center of biodiversity in North America.  A wide variety of natural communities exist across the spectrum from prairie to savanna to woodland, with numerous types of wetlands interspersed among them.  Discover the many rare plants and showy wildflowers unique to this area, along with the habitats in which they occur.

Rare Plants of Southern Illinois
  There is tremendous biodiversity in southern Illinois.  And much of that biodiversity is rare, especially when it comes to plants, as an estimated 20% of plant species that occur in southern Illinois are at the edge of their range.  Join botanist Chris Benda for a program featuring photos of rare plants and interesting information about their ecology, distribution, and status on the Illinois Threatened and Endangered Species list.

Winter Tree Identification
  Identifying trees and shrubs in the winter when their leaves are gone can seem difficult, but all the parts necessary to know them are there if you know what to look at. Learn how to see trees naked (without leaves) by looking at bark, bud, and twig characteristics and you will be able to identify trees any time of the year on your own!

Wild Ferns of Southern Illinois
  Over 50 native fern species can be found in unglaciated southern Illinois.  This presentation introduce basic fern terminology with photos and identification tips to identify them in the field.

Wild Orchids of Illinois
 Illinois is home to over 50 species of orchids and many are very rare.  This program will discuss the natural history of orchids and present photos of all the species native to Illinois.  

Wild Orchids of Missouri
 Missouri is home to over 37 species of orchids and many are very rare.  This program will discuss the natural history of orchids and present photos of all the species native to Missouri.  

Wildflowers for the Home Garden
  With so much of the state converted to agriculture and urbanized areas, it is ever so important that homeowners create mini-refuges on their properties when possible.  Native wildlife need native plants to survive and there is a lot the average person can do to create habitat for these organisms in their own yards.  Botanist Chris Benda will take the audience on a tour of Illinois by region, highlighting the many showy and interesting wildflowers that can be found in each region of the state.  Emphasis will be on easy to grow species that are available in the nursery trade.

Slideslide presentations viewable on slideshare