Alton, IL

Making Milkweed the State Wildflower

Story by WBGZ Radio

Some Illinois lawmakers want to make a poisonous weed a symbol of our state.

A bill awaiting a state House of Representatives vote would make the common milkweed the official wildflower of Illinois.

The aggressive and invasive plant gains its name from the milky substance inside of its stems and leaves. It's poisonous to most commercial livestock but attracts monarch butterflies, the official state insect since 1975.

State Sen. Tom Rooney, R-Palatine, filed a bill that would have gotten rid of most all the state designations.

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"Now we're trying to connect state symbols to each other," he said. "If this isn't the next level of ridiculousness, I don't know what is."

Rooney contends that the state's symbols have gotten so numerous that they have stopped mattering.

"It would be the 20-something-th, the 30-something-th and then the 40-something-th if this legislature doesn't knock it off," he said.

Studies have shown some crops lose as much as 20 percent of their yield due to the proposed state wildflower. Farmers often get the seed's silk stuck in their machinery and use herbicides to kill the plant.

A study released last week by the University of Illinois shows a lack of milkweed isn't actually the main contributor to the dwindling monarch butterfly population.

The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, who also has a bill that would ban counties and municipalities from classifying the plant as noxious or exotic.

(Copyright WBGZ /


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