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wildflowers

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: New England Aster

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 05, 2014 at 20:50:00 PM CST

This week's wildflower diary is dedicated to Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who may become the only Democrat to survive the 2014 Republican wave in a targeted U.S. Senate race.

New England Aster, known as Symphyotrichum novae-angliae or Aster novae-angliae, is native to most of the U.S. and Canada. The plant blooms in the late summer or early fall, and its many flowerheads stand out against the landscape with their purple or pink ray flowers and yellow or orange disk flowers. I've enclosed several pictures after the jump.

According to the Minnesota Wildflowers website, "New England Aster is one of the last flowers to bloom in the season." On that note, Iowa wildflower Wednesday is going on hiatus until the spring. Previous posts in the series are archived here. Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest diaries featuring Iowa nature photographs at any time of the year.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Great blue lobelia

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 29, 2014 at 23:40:00 PM CDT

The peak blooming period for today's featured plant is in late summer, but we've had an unseasonably warm October across Iowa, so I decided to run with it anyway. Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is native to most of North America east of the Rockies. I enclose several pictures after the jump.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Plain gentian (cream gentian)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 22, 2014 at 20:47:38 PM CDT

Some late summer wildflowers are tall enough be seen from a mile away, some catch your attention with masses of flowerheads, and some make up for being low to the ground with brilliant-colored blossoms. Today's featured wildflower is none of the above.

Plain gentian (Gentiana alba) is native to much of the Midwest, including Iowa. Also known as cream gentian, yellow gentian or sometimes white prairie gentian, it "grows in well drained soils of moist meadows, prairies and open woods with full sun to partial shade." The plant usually is only 1 to 2 feet tall, and the white blossoms are either closed or barely open at the ends. According to the website of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Minnesota, "When the corolla lips are closed or just partly open it takes a large bee to force them apart to reach in for the nectar."

I would have walked right past the plain gentian amid the taller grasses in a prairie patch at Whiterock Conservancy last month. Fortunately, Eileen Miller showed me some flowering plants. Only a couple of my pictures came out, and I've enclosed those below. I don't know what kind of insect chewed up some of the leaves; mammalian herbivores are thought to avoid plants in the gentian family.

As a bonus, I included a picture of wild cucumber fruit, which Eileen showed me near a bank of the Middle Raccoon River. Wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is a native vine and an interesting plant, but a warning to foragers: its fruit are not edible.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Sky blue aster

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 22:53:16 PM CDT

Full disclosure: asters can be hard to tell apart, even for experts, and I am not an expert. So while I'm fairly confident that the pictures below depict Sky blue aster, I wouldn't bet the farm on it. They were blooming last month in prairie habitat at Whiterock Conservancy, and I suspect some are still blooming, as many asters continue to flower well into the Iowa autumn.

As a bonus, I've enclosed below a picture of one of my favorite late summer prairie wildflowers, rough blazing star. It was blooming near the patches of sky blue aster.

This post is also an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Downy gentian

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 08, 2014 at 23:05:00 PM CDT

Eileen Miller has contributed more stunning photos for this week's edition of Iowa wildflower Wednesday. The featured flower is Downy gentian, also known as prairie gentian. I've never seen this flower blooming in real life. It's among several plants in the gentian family that blossom in Iowa prairies during the early autumn.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: White turtlehead

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 01, 2014 at 22:55:42 PM CDT

Today's featured plant is native to most of the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada. I was unfamiliar with white turtlehead (Chelone glabra) until Eileen Miller pointed it out to me during a visit to Whiterock Conservancy a few weeks ago. Flowers can appear anytime from July through September, and they are easy to recognize because of the "turtlehead" shape.  

I've enclosed several pictures of white turtlehead after the jump. This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Common sneezeweed (Autumn sneezeweed)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 24, 2014 at 22:13:38 PM CDT

This week's featured wildflower is native to almost all of North America and thrives in sunny spots with relatively wet soil. After the jump I've posted several pictures of Common sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale). As you can probably guess from the Latin name and the alternative common names Fall sneezeweed or Autumn sneezeweed, this plant blooms in the late summer or early fall. Eileen Miller showed me this patch of sneezeweed in a wet area of Whiterock Conservancy earlier this month.

The name sneezeweed made me wonder whether this plant was allergenic for many people, as is ragweed, which also blooms in the late summer. But according to the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas in Austin, "The common name is based on the former use of its dried leaves in making snuff, inhaled to cause sneezing that would supposedly rid the body of evil spirits."

This post is also an open thread: all topics welcome. As tonight marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, I also want to wish a very happy new year to all the Jews in the Bleeding Heartland community.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 337 words in story)

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Flat-topped aster (Parasol whitetop)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 17, 2014 at 23:20:00 PM CDT

I've been to Whiterock Conservancy lots of times, but last week was my first visit in the company of naturalist and photographer Eileen Miller. Walking through a seep near the Middle Raccoon River, Eileen showed me quite a few native plants that I'd never recognized before, including this week's featured wildflower. Flat-topped aster (Doellingeria umbellata) is also commonly known as flat-topped white aster or parasol whitetop. I've enclosed several photographs after the jump.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Stiff goldenrod

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 21:01:02 PM CDT

If you've been on Iowa country roads or bike trails lately, you've probably seen plenty of goldenrods in bloom. You may also have seen today's featured wildflower, especially in prairies or prairie remnants. After the jump I've posted several photographs of Stiff goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum), a member of the aster family that is native to much of North America east of the Rocky Mountains.

I took most of these pictures during a recent visit to Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens, well worth seeing if you're in the Ames area. The facility is best known for its incredible butterfly enclosure, containing dozens of tropical plants and hundreds of insect species not native to Iowa. For that reason, I was surprised to see a strip of native plants growing near the front entrance.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome. I'll put up a separate thread later tonight or tomorrow morning with Iowa reaction to President Barack Obama's televised address about the U.S. response to ISIS.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 688 words in story)

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Fungi edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 03, 2014 at 20:49:57 PM CDT

After record rainfall during August in some parts of Iowa, it's a banner year for mushrooms. Naturalist and photographer Eileen Miller has been taking spectacular pictures of fungi in the Raccoon River watershed. So this week, Bleeding Heartland is taking a break from wildflowers to focus native Iowa fungi. Eileen contributed a dozen photos and some commentary, which I've enclosed below. To my knowledge, I had never seen most of those mushroom species before.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Yellow wood sorrel

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 18:08:41 PM CDT

Today's featured plant is native to much of North America and is edible in limited quantities. In fact, one experienced forager called this plant and its close relatives "my favorite wild edible." After the jump I've enclosed several pictures of Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta).

As a bonus, I included two shots of American bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum), one of my all-time favorite Iowa wildflowers. It's a common sight in wooded areas and along many shady bike trails throughout the summer.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

There's More... :: (9 Comments, 560 words in story)

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Hoary vervain

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 20:47:02 PM CDT

A native or restored prairie in full late summer glory is gorgeous, but I also have a soft spot for wildflowers that can survive some of the toughest conditions humans have inflicted on the landscape. Today's featured plant flourishes in overgrazed pastures and on roadsides with poor soil, and is native to most of the continental United States. After the jump I've posted several pictures of Hoary vervain (Verbena stricta), which blooms across most of Iowa from late June to September.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: St. John's Wort

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 14:10:00 PM CDT

Today's featured wildflower has been used medicinally for thousands of years and is still a common herbal remedy for depression. That said, St. John's Wort can limit the effectiveness of many prescription medications, and some drug interactions could even be dangerous.

The St. John's Wort family (Hypericaceae) includes Spotted St. John's Wort (Hypericum punctatum), which is native to most of the eastern U.S., and Common St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), a European native that has spread across most of North America. The plants are easily confused, because common St. John's Wort can also have spots, though more faint than on spotted St. John's Wort.

I think the photographs I've posted below depict common St. John's Wort. The Illinois Wildflowers website describes the leaves and flowers in detail and notes that the plant is common in "mesic to dry sand prairies, barren savannas, degraded weedy meadows, gravelly areas along railroads and roadsides, pastures and abandoned fields, and sterile waste areas. There is a preference for disturbed areas with little vegetation." That description applies to the part of the Meredith bike trail where I took these pictures a few weeks ago. Note to farmers: sheep and goats "readily graze" this plant but can die from a toxic reaction. Because common St. John's Wort can be invasive, it is considered a noxious weed in some states to the west of Iowa.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Partridge pea

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 20:49:47 PM CDT

Iowa naturalist Eileen Miller has graciously contributed more of her photographs and commentary for this week's wildflower diary. Today's featured plant is Partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata). In the pictures after the jump, you can see the bright yellow flowers and frequent pollinators in incredible detail. For central Iowans who want to get a closer look at this plant, lots of partridge pea are blooming near the south edge of Gray's Lake in Des Moines, and along the Meredith bike trail nearby.

Until I read Eileen's text, I never knew that partridge pea plants produce nectar outside the flowers.

This post is also an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Tall cinquefoil

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 22:01:00 PM CDT

Today's featured plant is native to most of North America and can thrive in a wide variety of soils and habitats. After the jump I've posted several pictures of tall cinquefoil (Potentilla arguta), a member of the rose family also known as white cinquefoil or prairie cinquefoil.

This post also serves as a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Wild petunia, plus May apple with fruit

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 20:22:00 PM CDT

This week's featured flower resembles a common garden planting, but wild petunia (Ruellia humilis) is native to much of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. In Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie, Sylvan Runkel and Dean Roosa note that this plant can grow "in a variety of habitats, from open woodlands to moist prairies to sand plains." According to Iowa naturalist Leland Searles, the petunias often grown in gardens are in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) and have alternate leaves. Wild petunia is a member of the acanthus family (Acanthaceae) and has opposite leaves.

Also known as hairy wild petunia, this plant isn't hard to grow in a garden, according to the Illinois Wildflowers website. A related species called smooth wild petunia has similar blossoms but smooth leaves.

I've posted below several pictures of wild petunia blooming, along with a couple of flowers I hope the Bleeding Heartland community will help me identify. As a bonus, I included a shot of fruit growing on May apples, also known as umbrella plants. May apples are one of my favorite spring wildflowers, but deer or other wildlife tend to eat all the fruit from the plants closest to my corner of Windsor Heights. I was lucky to find a stand of untouched May apples a couple of weeks ago while hunting for black raspberries. Supposedly you can make preserves from ripe May apple fruit, but I've never tried it, nor have I tried eating the fruit raw. This blogger found out the hard way that the seeds are toxic.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Yellow jewelweed (Pale touch-me-not)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 22:57:41 PM CDT

Dry and unseasonably cool weather has made this a perfect week to get out and see summer wildflowers. One of my summer favorites, American bellflower, is prevalent along most of the wooded trails in central Iowa. Dozens of prairie flower species are in bloom, and you can find many in small city plantings (for instance, around Gray's Lake in Des Moines and on nearby trails) if you don't have time to get to a native or restored prairie.

This week's featured native plant thrives in wooded areas where the ground is moist, and prefers partial sun. Yellow jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) is also commonly known as pale touch-me-not or pale jewelweed. It's reportedly less common than orange jewelweed, a closely related plant. For centuries, various Native American tribes used jewelweed to soothe itches from poison ivy rashes, mosquito bites, and hives. I know hikers who swear by it. Conveniently, the plant often grows near poison ivy and stinging nettle, legendary skin irritants. This post on Nature Labs explains how to use jewelweed and includes more detail on its medicinal properties.

Incidentally, the common name "touch-me-not" doesn't mean plants in this family are harmful to touch. Rather, the name was inspired by "the sensitive triggering of seeds from the ripe capsule," which tends to explode when touched.  

After the jump I've enclosed several photos of yellow jewelweed, growing along a stretch of the Windsor Heights bike trail. Although I've walked or ridden my bicycle by the spot literally hundreds of times in the last dozen years, I never noticed this plant growing there until this summer--which should come in handy, now that the mosquitoes are out in force.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: White avens and black raspberries

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 21:59:30 PM CDT

This week, Bleeding Heartland features two native plants that are hallmarks of early summer in Iowa woodlands. Both are members of the rose family, and both are frequently found along woodland edges, stream banks or fence rows. They prefer dappled sunlight rather than full sun or deep shade.

Follow me after the jump for pictures of white avens and black raspberries. The white avens are blooming all over the place now. Raspberry shrubs flower in the late spring but produce their ripened fruit around late June or early July.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 595 words in story)

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Purple meadow rue

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 21:39:10 PM CDT

Most of Iowa will get a break from the rain over the next few days, and temperatures will be milk, so I hope many of you will be able to spend time outdoors over the holiday weekend. A huge variety of summer wildflowers are blooming in Iowa woodlands and prairies. The most conspicuous include masses of elderberry bushes flowering along central Iowa bike trails and stream banks, and butterfly milkweed, forming clusters of bright orange in prairies and along some roads and highways.

Today's featured wildflower can grow in many different habitats, including wet prairies, meadows, swamps, or woodlands, especially lowland woods near streams. I found this patch of purple meadow rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) a few weeks ago along the Clive Greenbelt trail, between 86th St and 100th St.

This is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Wild rose

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 21:53:02 PM CDT

Since I started Bleeding Heartland's weekly wildflower series in 2012, I've planned to feature Iowa's state flower, the wild rose. However, for whatever reason I never ran across this plant at the peak of its blooming period when I had my camera handy. This year I was determined to catch some wild rose blossoms, so a couple of weeks ago I headed down to the Stamps Family Farm near Chariton (Lucas County), having received a tip that roses were flowering. Fortunately for me, the rain let up just before I arrived.

After the jump I've enclosed photographs of native wild roses, along with a few pictures of multiflora roses. Rosa multiflora is considered an invasive species in much of North America, native to eastern Asia and brought here "as garden plants and as root stock for ornamental roses." It's on the noxious weed list of Iowa and several neighboring states and is a common sight out in the country.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 647 words in story)
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