Bonus Iowa wildflower Friday: Dogtooth violet

On Wednesday I inadvertently posted photos of a non-native flower, so here are a couple of bonus Iowa wildflower pictures. Dogtooth violets typically bloom in Iowa between April and June, but this year’s unusually warm weather brought them out in late March.

According to Wildflowers of Iowa Woodlands by Sylvan Runkel and Alvin Bull, dogtooth violets are “found throughout the state in rich moist woodlands, especially in bottomlands with open woods.”

A nodding star of a flower is carried on a single leafless stalk which arises from between the paired leaves. Three petals and three sepals look so much alike the flower appears to have six petals. They open from a straight tight bud to a strongly re-curved star-like appearance.

dogtooth violet, Dogtooth violet flowering in central Iowa, April 2011

These flowers usually grow in groups. The green leaves mottled with brown are distinctive and appear a few weeks before the flowers. If you see them in early spring without any dogtooth violets, try to find the patch again a week or two later. Not all of the mottled leaves will be next to a flower, though. Runkel and Bull write,

For the first 2 or 3 years, only a tiny single leaf is produced. The next 2 or 3 years, a larger leaf is produced. Thereafter, two leaves are formed. But a new plant may not flower until 6 or 7 years old–always after it starts producing two leaves.

dogtooth violets, Group of dogtooth violets blooming in central Iowa, April 2012

Picking these flowers kills the plant, so leave them alone. The bulbs underground used to be a common food source for American Indian tribes.  

Tags: Wildflowers

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