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Bleeding Heartland is a community blog about Iowa politics: campaigns and elections, state government, social and environmental issues. Bleeding Heartland also weighs in on presidential policies and campaigns, federal legislation and what the Iowans in Congress are up to. Join our community, post your thoughts as comments or diaries, help keep our leaders honest and hold them accountable.
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Bleeding Heartland
It's what plants crave.
wildflowers

Weekend open thread: Nature in winter

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 16:50:00 PM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? Across central and parts of eastern Iowa, today was this winter's first good sledding opportunity. But road conditions are iffy, and tomorrow's high temperatures will be in the single digits, so be careful if you need to venture out. Earlier this month, I posted a bunch of winter safety links here.

Today's Sunday Des Moines Register includes a feature by Mike Kilen on Leland Searles' Raccoon River Watershed Phenology calendar. In a blatant play for the reader's attention, Kilen led with the calendar's many references to animal mating. This calendar is a fantastic resource for Iowans interested in birds or native plants. You can order copies here; part of the proceeds go to the non-profit Raccoon River Watershed Association.

The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is open year-round, and they have snowshoes for visitors to borrow if you want to explore the prairie. Highly recommended. The center also holds some special events during the winter, including a guided snowshoe hike on December 28 and a bird count scheduled for January 4.

I just learned about this website containing links to Iowa natural areas, including marshes, prairie remnants and fens as well as state parks and preserves.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Weekend open thread: Iowa wildlife edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 11:05:00 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

As a major cold front and a dusting of snow covered much of Iowa in recent days, birds have been relying more on feeders. I've refilled ours every two or three days instead of once every ten days to two weeks. Now would be a excellent time to put out thistle seed for finches or any feeder containing a mix of birdseed.

November is the peak time for deer-vehicle collisions. The other day I was on a two-lane highway near dusk and saw a doe dart across the road, narrowly escaping a deadly encounter with trucks traveling in both directions. Of course, I thought immediately of Senator Chuck Grassley.

Pheasant season opened in late October, but bird numbers are down significantly, due to weather conditions and habitat loss. The trendlines are even worse in South Dakota.

Via the Next City blog, I saw an amazing map of the "United Watershed States of America." Land use planner John Lavey created the map after wondering, "What if all the states were configured around principal watersheds?" In Lavey's map, "Iowa" consists of areas feeding into the Mississippi River. Western parts of our state that feed into the Missouri River are part of "Missouri" on the map.

Speaking of watersheds, the Raccoon River Watershed Association is selling a beautiful 2014 calendar as a fundraiser ($18 per calendar or $15 each if you order at least ten). Many calendars include lovely Iowa nature photos, but to my knowledge, only this one contains detailed information about Iowa phenology. Dr. Lee Searles created the calendar with birders, native plant lovers and nature enthusiasts in mind. For instance, it notes that early warblers usually start arriving on April 8. Yellow coneflower starts opening around July 3. Northern Goshawks start to come down the Raccoon River around September 15. UPDATE: Here's a link to the calendars.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Iowa flower Wednesday: Aster

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 20:57:00 PM CST

For the second year in a row, I'm ending Bleeding Heartland's wildflower series with pictures of asters. They are often the last wildflowers you see'll in the fall, as some species continue to bloom even after several frosts, when most other plants have turned brown. The pictures after the jump were taken in late September, but within the past few days I've seen some white asters still in flower.

Iowa wildflower Wednesday will resume in the spring, whenever I manage to take some pictures of early bloomers such as skunk cabbage, trillium, or pasque flower.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: A mystery in the blazing star group

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 30, 2013 at 20:25:00 PM CDT

Happy Halloween to the Bleeding Heartland community! I don't have any scary nature photos to share. Instead, to mark the holiday, this week's featured Iowa wildflower is a mystery I haven't been able to identify. I hope a native plants expert will be able to tell me which kind of blazing star (Liatris) it is. Some have suggested rough blazing star (Liatris aspera) or dotted blazing star (Liatris punctata). I thought rough blazing star looked more like these plants, but I'm not sure.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Maximilian sunflower

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 23:55:00 PM CDT

The wildflower season is winding down, but I plan to do a few more of these posts before putting the series on break for the winter.

Most Iowa wildflowers have gone to seed, but you may still find some goldenrods or asters blooming on prairies or at woodland edges. After the jump I've enclosed several photos of a striking yellow aster I found recently along the Meredith bike trail between Gray's Lake and downtown Des Moines.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Jerusalem artichoke

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 22:20:00 PM CDT

I am notoriously bad at distinguishing the yellow asters of late summer, but as far as I know, I have enclosed several pictures of Jerusalem artichoke after the jump. The surefire way to confirm the ID would have been to dig around the plant looking for tasty and healthful potato-like tubers, but I didn't want to disturb any soil on public land. I hope some native plants experts in the Bleeding Heartland community will correct me if I have featured the wrong wildflower.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Prairie sage

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 21:10:00 PM CDT

For the last couple of weeks, I've been meaning to get down to the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge to take pictures of the late summer/early autumn wildflowers. Like an idiot, I kept putting off my visit, forgetting that the federal facility would be affected by a government shutdown.

So, instead of new shots of flowers blooming right now in central Iowa, today's post features pictures I took about six weeks ago in Dallas County. Prairie sage usually blooms in August and September and is easy to spot on the landscape long after its flowers have gone.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Giant ragweed

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 25, 2013 at 23:35:00 PM CDT

Hot, dry weather in July and August spawned record-breaking pollen counts in some parts of Iowa last month. Follow me after the jump for pictures of the wildflower most hated by hay fever sufferers. Not goldenrod, which also blooms in August and September and is often wrongly blamed for late summer seasonal allergies. I'm talking about giant ragweed.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: White snakeroot

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 18, 2013 at 21:05:00 PM CDT

I'm taking a break from prairie wildflowers this week to showcase one of the most common plants blooming in Iowa woodlands during the late summer. White snakeroot has a large and tragic place in American history. This native plant indirectly caused thousands of deaths on the frontier during the 19th century. Abraham Lincoln's mother was probably one of its victims. Several photos of white snakeroot are after the jump.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Ironweed

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 21:03:13 PM CDT

You don't have to travel to a natural area to see today's featured plant. Ironweed grows near many Iowa roadsides as well as on prairies or in marshes, and its bright pink/purple color makes it easy to spot. After the jump I've posted several pictures of ironweed growing in a restored Dallas County prairie.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Compass plant

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 20:10:00 PM CDT

This week's featured Iowa native is one of the tallest of the tallgrass prairie plants. Like ox-eye, sawtooth sunflower, common sunflower, and its close relative cup plant, compass plant (Silphium laciniatum) is a member of the aster family with yellow flower heads. Its great height makes it easy to distinguish from the other yellow asters. Generations of people have used the plant to help find their way. Several photos of compass plant are after the jump.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Happy new year to the members of the Bleeding Heartland community who celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Blazing star

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 28, 2013 at 17:20:00 PM CDT

Today's wildflower offers some of the most striking colors on the tallgrass prairie in late summer. Blazing star, also known as button snakeroot, gay-feather, or prairie blazing star, is closely related to the rough blazing star that Bleeding Heartland featured last year.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Rattlesnake master

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 21:19:15 PM CDT

I've been on a prairie flower kick this summer, and today's installment continues the trend. Several woodland wildflowers Bleeding Heartland featured last year are now blooming along Iowa trails and meadow edges, so if you're walking or bicycling in a wooded area, keep your eyes open for the yellow blossoms of common evening primrose, wingstem, and cutleaf coneflower. I've seen some goldenrods flowering lately too.

Speaking of yellow flowers, I enclosed a bonus photo below of big bluestem on a restored prairie in Dallas County. Big bluestem is the "star component of the Big Four native grass species that characterize the tallgrass prairies of central North America."

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Whorled milkweed

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 14, 2013 at 22:45:00 PM CDT

The tallgrass prairies that once dominated the Iowa landscape contained many different milkweed plants. Even now 17 milkweed species can be found in our state, and diverse habitats like the Duke Prairie in Clinton County contain half a dozen or more milkweeds. I rarely see any other than the common milkweed, which grows in countless farm fields and along thousands of roadsides.

I recently visited a prairie restoration area in Dallas County, where I saw whorled milkweed for the first time. Several pictures are after the jump. As a bonus, I included a picture of seed pods on a butterfly milkweed plant from the same prairie patch. Bleeding Heartland featured butterfly milkweed flowers earlier this summer.

Speaking of bright orange blossoms, I also enclose below a picture of an enormous trumpet vine growing in the heart of the Dallas Center business district. I love stumbling on a native plant thriving in an unlikely location.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Ox-eye (Smooth oxeye, false sunflower)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 07, 2013 at 20:45:00 PM CDT

Like last week's featured cup plant, today's Iowa wildflower can be found in prairies and has bright yellow flower heads. Several pictures of ox-eye in bloom are after the jump. As a bonus for the UNI purple-and-gold fans in the Bleeding Heartland community, I included a shot of spiderwort, which was growing not far from these ox-eyes at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Cup plant

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 31, 2013 at 21:45:00 PM CDT

This week's featured wildflower is particularly valuable for insects and birds in prairie habitats, because its leaves hold small pools of water, even long after the flowers are gone. Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) is blooming now in central Iowa. I've enclosed several pictures of this striking yellow flower after the jump.

I highly recommend a visit to the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City (Jasper County) at this time of year. Dozens of prairie plants are flowering. It's a perfect half-day trip.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Purple coneflower

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 22:20:00 PM CDT

Today's featured wildflower is blooming not only in prairies all over Iowa now, but also in many gardens. In fact, I took the enclosed photos of purple coneflowers at Clive Elementary School in Windsor Heights, my alma mater and the site of the 2004 and 2008 Iowa caucuses for my precinct. If you're into natural or herbal remedies, you may recognize this plant's scientific name: Echinacea purpurea.

Several photos of purple coneflowers are after the jump. As a bonus, I've included recent pictures of two other summer wildflowers Bleeding Heartland featured last summer: partridge pea and American bellflower. They are among my favorite Iowa native plants. Keep an eye out for them along bike trails.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Yellow or gray-headed coneflower

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 21:46:35 PM CDT

Today's featured flower is one of the most recognizable tallgrass prairie flowers. You might also find it blooming along Iowa roadsides or bike trails between June and September. I've enclosed a few photos of yellow coneflowers below, along with a one picture of a different Iowa wildflower it closely resembles.

Incidentally, if you drive through eastern Iowa on I-80 you are likely to see patches of bright orange butterfly milkweed to the side of the highway.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Spiderwort

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 13:01:00 PM CDT

Here's your mid-week open thread: all topics welcome. Today's featured Iowa wildflower is spiderwort, a purple mystery to me when I noticed it near a patch of Prairie smoke in bloom about six weeks ago. Thanks to Bleeding Heartland user conservative demo and others who identified it.

The spiderwort family contains many plants, including the dayflower Bleeding Heartland featured last year. I am not sure whether the pictures below depict Tradescantia ohiensis (Ohio spiderwort) or Tradescantia virginiana (Virginia spiderwort). Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie by Sylvan Runkel and Dean Roosa lists Ohio spiderwort as common in our state. It typically blooms from June through August, but I took the pictures below in late May, near the Meredith bike trail between Gray's Lake and downtown Des Moines.

Speaking of pretty bluish/purple flowers, this week I've finally seen some American bellflowers blooming. That's one of my Iowa summer favorites.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Butterfly milkweed, plus Elderberry

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 21:01:39 PM CDT

Since last week's featured flower was strangely white, stem and all, I wanted to include a splash of color today. After the jump you can find several photos of butterfly milkweed, a gorgeous prairie plant that is easy to grow from seed in gardens. As the name suggests, butterflies love the bright orange flowers. The plant is more striking than the common milkweed that's more prevalent along Iowa roadsides.

I also included below some pictures of elderberry shrubs, which are blooming in Iowa now. I saw tons this week on the Windsor Heights bike trail, the Clive Greenbelt trail, and the Jordan Creek trail in West Des Moines. Some people collect the elderflowers to make cordial. I've never tried it but have heard it's tasty. The flower clusters can also be battered and fried. Later this year, the dark purple, almost black elderberries can be used in baked desserts or turned into syrup or tincture that may boost immunity.

Finally, I enclose a photo of a white flower I haven't been able to identify. If you recognize this plant, blooming now in wooded areas of central Iowa, please post a comment in this thread or send an e-mail to desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com. UPDATE: Twitter user Lynzey515 suggests that the mystery flower is White avens (Geum canadense). That looks like a strong possibility.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 764 words in story)
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