Lora Conrad

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Great Waterleaf

Lora Conrad features a native perennial at different stages of development.

Great Waterleaf aka Appendaged Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum) is one of only two native Hydrophyllum species in Iowa. The other is Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum), which Bleeding Heartland featured here.

Great Waterleaf is a native perennial that thrives in partial shade in rich woodlands. Most photos enclosed below were made on a north facing slope of wooded land just above the Des Moines River in Van Buren County. Others were made in a similar site in Lee County. According to BONAP, it is found more in the eastern two-thirds of Iowa.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: The Croton Unit of Shimek State Forest

Join Lora Conrad for a walk through the Croton Unit of Shimek State Forest to photograph and identify plants growing in this “premier woodland wildflower location.”

“Shimek State Forest is located in Lee and Van Buren counties in southeast Iowa. The forest served as a base for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s and 1940s, where they planted thousands of acres of hardwoods and conifers for demonstration purposes. Named after early Iowa conservationist Dr. Bohumil Shimek, the forest offers bountiful outdoor recreation opportunities… ”

So goes the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ understated introduction to Shimek State Forest which is 9,448 acres spread across five forest units.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: American Burnweed

Lora Conrad profiles a weedy native plant that favors disturbed ground.

Known variously as American Burnweed or Fireweed or Pilewort, Erechtites hieraciifolius (Senecio hieraciifolius is an earlier synonym) is found throughout Iowa as well as states east of Iowa. The names burnweed and fireweed result from its penchant for occurring in recently burned areas.

Why the other common name? Well, some indigenous peoples extracted oil from the plant and used it to treat piles, also known as hemorrhoids, thus the moniker pilewort.

It is a native summer annual in much of the U.S., as well as Central and South America. With its penchant for disturbed soil, you may see it sprinkled about or exploding in great numbers in recently disturbed soils, replanted prairies, roadsides, open woods, and renovated wetlands. It follows human habitation and disturbance of the soil. While considered “weedy,” it is not invasive. It tends to fade away as new plantings get more established. Despite its obvious appreciation for replanted prairies and native status, it is not listed in the UI “Iowa Prairie Plants” online.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: What is that plant, flower, or fruit?

Lora Conrad reviews nine useful resources for plant identification in Iowa.

Whether you are new to learning about Iowa wildflowers and native shrubs and trees or have been studying them as a hobby for some years, you are sure to see a plant or flower that you just can’t identify. Before posting a question for the experts on your local wildflower or flora Facebook page, you might want to see what you can learn about the plant and determine yourself.

Three types of resources are widely available: plant identification applications for a smart phone, public web pages from authoritative sources, and books. Each source can be useful but not always sufficient.

The purpose of this article is to compare the reference books that have helped me most in identifying plants in the woodlands, prairies, waysides, river banks, and roadsides of Iowa, as well as in my untamed yard. These are recommendations from a determined wildflower enthusiast—not from a botanist. So with that caveat, please read on.

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