Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Trumpet vine

Few Iowa wildflowers are more “showy” than the trumpet vine. Pictures of this gardener’s favorite are after the jump, along with a video of a man performing the late Kate Wolf’s lovely song “Trumpet Vine.”

I’ve also included a bonus wildflower that is native to Europe but now widespread in North America: apple mint. UPDATE: Or possibly spearmint (see clarification below).

This is an open thread; all topics welcome.

I had no idea until recently that the trumpet vine, also known as the trumpet creeper, was a wildflower native to most of the United States. From the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas:

Native to eastern North America as far north as New York and Ontario, this vine is often cultivated for its attractive, reddish orange flowers and can escape cultivation, sometimes colonizing so densely it seems a nuisance, particularly in the southeast, where its invasive qualities have earned it the names Hellvine and Devils Shoestring. Its rapid colonization by suckers and layering makes it useful for erosion control, however, and its magnificent flowers never fail to attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds within its range. Adapted to eastern forests, Trumpet creeper grows tall with support. It climbs by means of aerial rootlets, which, like English Ivy, can damage wood, stone, and brick. To keep it in check, plant it near concrete or an area that you can mow; mowing down the suckers will discourage them. Fairly drought tolerant within its range. Blooms most in full sun.

I found a big patch of trumpet vine near a Polk County bike trail. It’s thriving despite this summer’s terrible drought.

trumpet vine flowers, Trumpet vine blooming in central Iowa, July 2012

Sylvan Runkel and Alvin Bull write in Wildflowers of Iowa Woodlands,

When the famous James Audubon painted the ruby-throated hummingbirds, he showed them hovering near flowers of the trumpet vine.

Some people are allergic to this species and develop a rash somewhat like that of poison ivy from contact.

Here’s a closer look at the flowers.

Trumpet vine blooming, Trumpet vine blooming in central Iowa, July 2012

I’m a big fan of the American folk singer/songwriter Kate Wolf. Lots of people have covered her song inspired by the trumpet vine. This was my favorite version of the ones I’ve heard on YouTube.

This week’s not-quite-Iowa-wildflower is apple mint, a plant that originated in Europe but grows wild across most of Iowa and the U.S. Like catnip, which has also nativized throughout Iowa, it is in the mint family.

I didn’t recognize this plant when I found a large patch blooming in an open field a few weeks ago. The minty smell was strong as I approached to get a better look at the small flowers. The leaves and stems resemble catnip, but the spiky-looking stamens protruding from the flowers look more like apple mint. If I have wrongly identified this plant, I hope some Bleeding Heartland reader will correct me.

UPDATE: Based on stems that do not look hairy in these photos, US Wildflowers blogger Gerry Williamson thinks this might be spearmint rather than apple mint. I will get back to this patch within the next few days to look more closely at the stems.

SECOND UPDATE: Found the patch again. The stems are not hairy. At this point I am assuming it’s spearmint.

apple mint, Apple mint blooming in central Iowa, July 2012

Many insects were happily buzzing around the blooms. Some kind of wasp (I think) is in the foreground of this photo.

apple mint flowers, Apple mint blooming in central Iowa, July 2012

Tags: Wildflowers

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