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wildflowers

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Bishop's cap (Two-leaved mitrewort)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 20, 2015 at 22:00:00 PM CDT

Iowans who venture to wooded areas this Memorial Day weekend will likely see many mid-spring wildflowers. Wild geranium and Virginia waterleaf are still going strong in my corner of the world, and you may find False rue anemone, May apples (umbrella plants) or Columbines in bloom. This week I saw the first flowers on black raspberry plants. If you see those, check back in late June or early July to pick the berries (technically, compound drupes). Wear jeans to avoid getting torn to pieces by the thorns.

This week's featured wildflower was new to me on a recent visit to Dolliver Memorial State Park in Webster County. Bishop's cap (Mitella diphylla) is native to much of the U.S. east of the Missouri River. It's not a show-stopper, but some consider its "small delicate flowers [...] very attractive and fairy-like." As a bonus, I've also enclosed below a few pictures of liverwort, a non-flowering plant that thrives in damp and rocky habitats, as does Bishop's cap. Liverworts are "the simplest true plants," so ancient that they predate ferns and mosses as well as plants producing flowers and seeds.

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

Final note: I saw what looked like a heavily pregnant doe the other day, which reminded me of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' good advice to "leave wildlife babies in the wild," rather than attempting to rescue animals you may assume to have been abandoned. Deer are among the mammals that sometimes leave young offspring for a while. The mother is usually nearby.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: False rue anemone

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 13, 2015 at 23:57:56 PM CDT

Early spring wildflowers have given way to mid-spring bloomers across Iowa. In prairie habitats, Eileen Miller has found some hoary puccoon and fringed puccoon blooming. In central Iowa wooded areas, May apples (umbrella plants), Virginia waterleaf, sweet cicely, and wild geranium are near their peak. Sweet William are still prevalent too, helping to compensate for the end of this year's spectacular Virginia bluebells show. Buds are visible on many native plants that will flower in the late spring or early summer, including wild grapes and one of my favorites, Solomon's seal.

A few rue anemone flowers are still blooming in Windsor Heights, which brings me to today's featured plant. False rue anemone (Enemion biternatum) is easily confused with rue anemone. Both plants are among the earliest spring wildflowers to bloom and continue to flower for many weeks after other early flower have gone. Both plants initially have reddish-brown foliage, which turns green before long. Neither rue anemone nor false rue anemone flowers have petals. What look like petals are white or pinkish-white sepals. The Illinois Wildflowers, U.S. Wildflowers, and Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden websites all contain more detailed botanical descriptions as well as tips on distinguishing false rue anemone from rue anemone. Short version: the leaves are shaped differently, and rue anemone flowers usually have more sepals than the five sepals on false rue anemone flowers.

I've enclosed several photos of false rue anemone after the jump. This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.  

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Toadshade (Toad trillium, Sessile trillium)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 06, 2015 at 23:40:00 PM CDT

Once you learn to recognize a native plant, you often start seeing it where you've never noticed it before. So it was for me with Toadshade (Trillium sessile), also known as Toad trillium or Sessile trillium. As far as I knew, I'd never seen it until Eileen Miller pointed it out on a recent visit to the Ledges State Park in Boone County. A few days ago, a neighbor's daughter asked me about a red flower in her back yard, and sure enough, a group of toadshade was blooming there. I'd never have expected to find it in Windsor Heights.

Toadshade isn't as stunning as some of its trillium relatives, like Snow trillium, but it's an attractive and distinctive plant. I've enclosed several pictures after the jump.

If you have a chance to visit a wooded area in Iowa soon, you are likely to see a variety of spring wildflowers. During the past week, I saw the first blossoms open on May apple (umbrella plant) and Virginia waterleaf. Several early spring wildflowers are mostly gone, but you might still find spring beauty, Virginia bluebells, or rue anemone. Several native plants that usually start blooming in April are still prevalent, such as sweet William (blue phlox), sweet cicely, littleleaf crowfoot or buttercup, violets, and Jack-in-the-pulpit. You're also likely to find some maroon flowers touching the ground if you peek under wild ginger leaves.

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

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Marsh marigold

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 29, 2015 at 18:33:40 PM CDT

Today's featured native plant is relatively rare and found mainly in wetlands. The naturalist and photographer Eileen Miller showed me a large stand of Marsh marigold on a recent visit to Dolliver Memorial State Park (Webster County), a beautiful area with some historically significant sites. Eileen contributed the photographs and text about these bright yellow flowers, which I've enclosed below.

Many spring wildflowers are peaking in central Iowa. A few days ago, my kids and I went out to pull up garlic mustard (an invasive plant) and saw all of the following native plants in bloom within a wooded area of less than an acre: spring beauty, Dutchman's breeches, sweet William (blue phlox), sweet cicely, littleleaf crowfoot or buttercup, Virginia bluebells, spring beauty, toothwort, rue anemone, bellwort, violets, and Jack-in-the-pulpit.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Pussytoes

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 22, 2015 at 23:56:00 PM CDT

Warmer weather and spring rains have caused woodland wildflowers to explode all over Iowa lately. This past week, I saw the first blossoms of sweet William (blue phlox), sweet cicely, and littleleaf crowfoot or buttercup.

I was fortunate to visit the Ledges State Park in Boone County recently with naturalist and photographer Eileen Miller. We saw carpet-like stands of spring beauty, bloodroot, and Dutchman's breeches. Eileen also noticed a much less showy native plant, which I had never seen (or at least not been aware of seeing) outside books.

After the jump I enclose several pictures of pussytoes in bloom. The plants are native to most of North America. They are so unobtrusive that I would have walked right past them if Eileen had not pointed them out.

As a bonus, I included a photo of bloodroot and Dutchman's breeches blooming together at the end of this post.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday returns: Dutchman's breeches

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 23:50:00 PM CDT

After a somewhat late start, many spring wildflowers are blooming now in central Iowa. If you walk in a wooded area over the next few days, you may see Virginia bluebells, spring beauty, toothwort, rue anemone, Dogtooth violets (also called trout lilies), or today's featured native plant, Dutchman's breeches. Thanks to the distinctive shape of the flowers, Dutchman's breeches are among the easiest spring wildflowers to identify.

The arrival of spring also heralds the return of Harlan Ratcliff's Central Iowa Butterfly Forecast, updated every two weeks at the Poweshiek Skipper site.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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