Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Aster

Continuing a Bleeding Heartland tradition, I’m closing out the wildflower series with assorted pictures of asters, many of which bloom well into the Iowa autumn. Heath asters and calico asters were featured in last year’s final wildflowers post, New England aster the year before. I included a few more views of that colorful plant today, along with pictures of a white and yellow species commonly known as Frost aster, Hairy white oldfield aster, or Awl aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum). The plant is native to most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains.

Other members of this family you may find blooming across Iowa in the fall include flat-topped aster, blue wood or heart-leaved aster, and sky blue aster.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return in the spring. Click here for the full archive (five years of posts).

People sometimes ask when I’m going to run out of native plants for this series. The answer is not for a very long time. I already have a list of about three dozen species I hope to cover in 2017. Most have not been featured before on Bleeding Heartland, because I never caught them at the peak blooming time, or wasn’t happy with my photographs, or ran out of Wednesdays in the appropriate season. Look for several posts by guest authors next year as well. I’m actively seeking volunteers to capture a few deep pink or red flowers that tax my limited photography skills, such as the purple poppy mallow, cardinal flower (red lobelia), and wild four o’clock.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Ghosts of Iowa Woodlands

Marion County Naturalist Marla Mertz presents an unusual wildflower that lacks chlorophyll. You can view her earlier contributions to Bleeding Heartland’s wildflower series here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Venturing into the woods in late summer is not common for me, as the prairie whispers my name. A quick walk in the woods might just be a good change of pace. Hiking boots on and a camera over my shoulder, off to the woods I go. Within a few short feet of a walking trail, my eyes immediately zoomed to the ground…a snow white flower? mushroom? fungus? Kneeling to take a closer look, the flower appeared to be a fungus. My eyes gaze around the forest floor to see a few more tiny, white looking, flowers and some have tinges of color. Flower or fungus? Being easily entertained, I photographed in every way shape and form in hopes that some would help me to define this unique “something”.

What appeared to be a strange looking fungus, had all of the aspects of a true flower. Not green, but white; a clammy feeling to the touch and waxy petal looking leaves that alternate up the stem. Some were in clumps and some were singled out. Some bowed and some stood straight up. Some had a pink tinge of color and some had a dark purple to black tinge around the petal looking leaves. Some had little yellow-looking flowers within the top of the plant. After an hour of photographing and digging out the old reliables of resource books, all of these observations pointed in the direction of the Ghost Plant, also known as Indian pipe and fairy smoke. Mystery solved!…almost.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Prairie blazing star

When I planned to feature these wildflowers the day after the presidential election, I was hoping the country–if not Iowa–would have something to celebrate today. Prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya) is a spectacular plant and seemed fitting for the occasion of Americans electing the first woman president.

I stuck with the plan because beautiful things will continue to exist, even after a narcissist with ugly impulses becomes the world’s most powerful man.

Prairie blazing star is native to a bunch of states that voted for Donald Trump yesterday and a few that voted for Hillary Clinton.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: The Alluring Fall Orchids

Marion County Naturalist Marla Mertz presents more Iowa wildflowers I’ve never seen “in real life.” I highly recommend her previous contributions to this series: Showy orchis and Queen of the Prairie. -promoted by desmoinesdem

This spring, Iowa wildflower Wednesday featured a very small, and more commonly known woodland orchid, the Showy Orchis. It is a notable early spring find, and I always look forward to visiting the woodlands for its appearance.

Some of us don’t trek the woodlands in the fall as often, as the prairies and vibrant blooms of roadsides keep us forever in awe and discovery. Late August, September and October are great times to visit the woods, and if you are looking for orchids, a sharp eye and delicate step bring fascinating finds. Iowa’s fall woodlands hold a few inconspicuous and rare little orchids. Oval ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes ovalis) and Autumn coralroot (Corallorhiza odontorhiza) are two of the most common.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Blue wood aster (Heart-leaved aster)

Long after most woodland or prairie wildflowers have gone to seed, many aster species are blooming well into the autumn across Iowa. One of the prettiest is blue wood aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium), also known as heart-leaved aster, common blue wood aster, or broad-leaved aster.

This plant is native to most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains and thrives in “moist to dry deciduous woodlands, woodland borders, areas adjacent to woodland paths, thinly wooded bluffs, shaded areas along streambanks, and rocky wooded slopes.” I took the enclosed pictures in mid-October along the driveway that leads from 45th Street to the Bergman Academy (old Science Center of Iowa building) in Des Moines.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Purple giant hyssop

This year’s unseasonably warm autumn weather inspired me to feature a plant today that typically blooms in the summer. Several colonies of Purple giant hyssop (Agastache scrophulariifolia) were in peak flower six to eight weeks ago along the Meredith bike trail between Gray’s Lake and downtown Des Moines.

This member of the mint family is native to much of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service describes it as a plant of “special value to native bees, honey bees and bumble bees.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service guide for this species notes that goldfinches and hummingbirds are also attracted to the flowers, and the plant is a “popular ornamental,” since its height (up to five or six feet) “makes it a good choice as a background against fencing.” It thrives in moist soil and can handle full sun or partial shade.

Purple giant hyssop is a close relative of blue giant hyssop, also known as anise hyssop, which Bleeding Heartland featured last year. According to the Minnesota Wildflowers website, purple giant hyssop has a green calyx (the “cup-like whorl of sepals” that holds the flower) and green on the underside of leaves, while blue giant hyssop has a blue-violet calyx and a “whitish” color on the underside of its leaves. Iowa naturalist and photographer Leland Searles gave me an easier tip: crush a leaf. If it smells like licorice, you’ve found anise hyssop.

Continue Reading...
View More...