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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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wildflowers

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.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 349 words in story)

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.

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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)

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Hoary puccoon and fringed puccoon

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 14:05:00 PM CDT

Thanks to Iowa naturalist Eileen Miller, Bleeding Heartland is able to feature two more native plants I've never seen in person--only in wildflower guides. Eileen contributed the commentary about hoary puccoon and fringed puccoon as well as the beautiful photographs below.

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

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Beardtongue (Penstemon)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 21:24:28 PM CDT

This week's featured wildflower can be grown in gardens without too much trouble and is popular with many species of bees. According to Wildflowers of Iowa Woodlands by Sylvan Runkel and Alvin Bull, Penstemon species are commonly called beardtongue because "One of the five stamens is sterile and does not produce pollen. It is often modified into a hairy or bearded tongue and probably attracts insects." The blue or purple lines sometimes seen inside the tubular flowers are also believed to "function as nectar guides to visiting insects."

After the jump I've enclosed several pictures of beardtongue in bloom, not far from Gray's Lake in Des Moines. The last two photos show this wildflower near other plants I haven't identified. If you know what they are, please post a comment in this thread or send me an e-mail: desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

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

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Golden Corydalis

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 18:21:00 PM CDT

To match this exciting week in Iowa politics, it's only fitting to share an exciting wildfower. Eileen Miller contributed the spectacular photographs of Golden Corydalis (Corydalis aurea), as well as the commentary. Although this plant is native to Iowa and much of North America, I've never seen it in real life--only in wildflower guides.

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

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Golden Alexanders

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 28, 2014 at 20:45:00 PM CDT

Today's featured wildflower comes courtesy of Leland Searles, a photographer, birder, naturalist, Iowa Master Conservationist, Master River Steward, and owner of the ecological consulting firm Leeward Ecology. He contributed the photographs and commentary below about Golden Alexanders, a brilliant yellow spring wildflower. You can view more of his photography here. Lee also put together the Raccoon River Watershed Phenology calendar, which is a must-have for Iowans who love native plants and any wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, insects).

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

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 455 words in story)

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Violets

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 21, 2014 at 20:15:00 PM CDT

After dandelions, violets may be the native plants most frequently spotted on Iowa homeowners' lawns. While we usually think of violets as being blue or purple, I've also seen many yellow and white violets around the neighborhood and along bike paths. According to Wildflowers of Iowa Woodlands by Sylvan Rukel and Alvin Bull, "Numerous [violet] species found in the state are highly variable and frequently hybridize. Identification is highly technical." So, I haven't attempted to figure out which species in the large Viola family are represented in the pictures below. They have one thing in common: heart-shaped leaves with toothed edges. These leaves often remain long after violets have stopped blooming in early to mid-summer.

Violets have frequently been used in traditional medicine and in some modern herbal remedies, but I've never tried ingesting any form of this plant.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Swamp buttercup

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 14, 2014 at 20:06:00 PM CDT

Warm, dry weather is in the forecast for most of Iowa later this week, so it's a perfect time to go look for spring wildflowers in parks and along trails. Today's featured wildflower is a buttercup I spotted along the Bill Riley trail in Des Moines, in between Greenwood Park and Water Works Park. Several photos are after the jump. At the end of this post, I couldn't resist including one shot of swamp buttercup next to what may be the most despised Iowa wildflower.

Morel mushroom hunters have been finding treasures in Iowa woods this past week, or so I hear. If you come across any garlic mustard while you're out and about, now's the time to pull this invasive plant up and throw it away in garbage bags. Recent rains will have loosened the soil, and the garlic mustard roots are not too deep to pull out. Also, while I've seen many plants flowering, I haven't seen any gone to seed so far this year.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.  

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Snow trillium

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 07, 2014 at 20:25:12 PM CDT

At this time of year, I love seeing the native plants change almost daily. On the Bill Riley bike trail in Des Moines yesterday, I saw lots of violets, bluebells, spring beauties, toothwort, dogtooth violets, and some buttercups that Bleeding Heartland will cover next Wednesday. In our corner of Windsor Heights we are seeing most of the above, as well as the first Jack-in-the-pulpits, bellwort, sweet William (phlox), and littleleaf buttercups blooming. Buds are developing on May apples, wild geranium, Virginia waterleaf, and even Solomon's seal. I have trouble identifying birds and insects, but we are seeing a wider variety of both, including a red admiral today. Here's the latest central Iowa butterfly forecast.

Today, Bleeding Heartland reader Eileen Miller has shared some of her photographs of snow trillium, a beautiful early spring wildflower. I've seen these blooming along the Living History Farms woodland trail (between the 1850 farm and the 1900 farm), but I've never captured good shots of them. Eileen's description of this flower is after the jump, along with her pictures.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Hepatica

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 18:22:54 PM CDT

Naturalist and Iowa outdoor enthusiast Eileen Miller has given Bleeding Heartland permission to publish her gorgeous photographs of an early spring wildflower: Hepatica. (Common variants include Hepatica nobilis and Hepatica americana). This plant can flower anytime between March and June in Iowa woodlands. This year, it started blooming relatively late because of the harsh winter.

After the jump I've posted Eileen's photographs, along with her descriptions of the plant, its stages of growth, and its pollinators. I've never managed to get such clear shots of insects on wildflowers.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday returns: Virginia bluebells

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 15:56:42 PM CDT

After a brutal winter and an unusually cold March, I'm more happy than ever to see early spring wildflowers. Two weeks ago, nothing was blooming yet around my corner of Windsor Heights. About ten days ago I finally saw the first blossoms on bloodwort, which can sometimes flower in mid-March. Within the past week I've seen the first Dutchman's breeches, rue anemone, toothwort, and even a dogtooth violet flowering. I've heard reports of spring beauties opening up in central Iowa, but haven't seen any in bloom yet.

The star of today's diary may be the Iowa wildflower most commonly planted in gardens. Thomas Jefferson himself cultivated the plant at Monticello. In fact, many people are unaware that Virginia bluebells (more commonly known simply as bluebells) are a native plant in Iowa. But you can find them in wooded areas, and they will spread easily across your yard if you give them free roam and have enough moisture in your soil. Photos of this stunning flower are after the jump.

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

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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.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 631 words in story)
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