Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Canada germander (American germander)

Following Marla Mertz’s post last week about a spectacular and rare prairie plant, I wanted to feature some unassuming wildflowers common in a range of wet habitats.

Nine species of germander are native to North America, but according to John Pearson of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, only one (Teucrium canadense) is native to Iowa. (Pearson added that other kinds of germander may be found in gardens.)

Sometimes called American germander or wood sage, Canada germander often grows in ditches, at woodland edges, or next to streams. I took all of the enclosed pictures along North Walnut Creek, near where the Windsor Heights bike trail passes under College Drive.

Side note for nature lovers riding RAGBRAI next week: please keep an eye out for Milkweed Matters volunteers handing out common milkweed seed balls for bicyclists to cast in unmowed ditches along the route. Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed plants to reproduce.

We now return to your regularly scheduled edition of Iowa wildflower Wednesday.

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Calling on RAGBRAI riders to help plant milkweed for monarchs

Monarch butterfly enthusiasts have prepared more than 50,000 balls containing common milkweed seeds for riders participating in next week’s Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). As its name suggests, common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is the most prevalent among the 17 types of milkweed found in Iowa. However, the use of genetically-modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans greatly diminished common milkweed on Iowa cropland. "Kelly Milkweed" Guilbeau and a friend scattered some milkweed seeds while doing RAGBRAI in 2014, then prepared about 2,000 balls of seed to hand out during last summer’s ride across Iowa.

Elizabeth Hill, who manages the Conard Environmental Research Area at Grinnell College, has collaborated with Guilbeau on the Milkweed Matters initiative, greatly expanded this year. I wish them every success; driving around Iowa last week, I saw huge stands of wild parsnip along too many roadsides.

I enclose below two pictures of common milkweed blooming, as well as a press release explaining where riders can pick up seed balls to toss in unmowed ditches along the RAGBRAI route, which runs across southern Iowa from July 24 through 30.

You can learn more at the Milkweed Matters website and receive regular updates on Twitter (@milkweedmatters) or Facebook. Butterfly fans can find more good links at the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa website. Although I’m not skilled at identifying butterflies, I enjoy the occasional "butterfly forecasts" by the Poweshiek Skipper Project.

P.S.- Hill will always have a special place in my heart as the accidental godmother of Bleeding Heartland’s Iowa wildflower Wednesday series.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: The Unmistakable Queen of the Prairie

Many thanks to Marion County Naturalist Marla Mertz for these views of a spectacular native plant. In case you missed it, check out her first contribution to this series, featuring the much smaller (but still striking) showy orchis. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The prairie presents her Queen! The Queen of the Prairie, Filipendula rubra. Filipendula: from Latin filum for “thread” and pendulus for ‘hanging,” in reference to the small tubers strung together by the fibrous roots. Rubra: from Latin, meaning “red”. The panicle of pink flowers and buds exudes her beauty in the month of June.

To some observers, one may think of cotton candy. She stands high above any prairie grasses and forbs this time of year, and your eyes can’t help but make a connection with this beauty.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: White wild indigo (largeleaf wild indigo)

Today’s post is dedicated to Mike Delaney, whose birthday is July 6. The founder of the Raccoon River Watershed Association has been a tremendous advocate for Iowa’s water, soil, and native plants and animals. He was a key lobbyist for a wild turtle protection bill that was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal legislative session for the Iowa environmental community. Mike has helped organize Citizens for a Healthy Iowa and the Iowa Conservation Voters PAC.

I took all of the pictures enclosed below at a prairie Mike has been restoring on farmland he bought in Dallas County during the late 1980s. The biodiversity on this relatively small patch of land along the Raccoon River is phenomenal. I tried to capture some wider views in the last three photos.

This week’s featured plant is White wild indigo (Baptisia alba var. macrophylla or Baptisia lactea). Also known as largeleaf wild indigo or white false indigo or prairie false indigo, the plant is native to most of the Midwest and plains states.

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July 4 open thread

Happy Independence Day to the Bleeding Heartland community! Enjoy the day safely, and please remember that amateur fireworks can not only hurt people, but also cause distress for war veterans suffering from PTSD.

It’s less hot today than usual on July 4, which will make walking with Jennifer Konfrst and other Democrats in this afternoon’s Windsor Heights parade much more pleasant. If you went to any parades this weekend, please share your anecdotes. I urge Democrats to wear sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and a t-shirt with a positive message. Don’t be rude to any political adversaries, and don’t respond in kind if heckled by Republicans. My go-to answers to parade watchers insulting me or candidates I support include, "My dad was a Republican" or "It’s a free country" or "Happy Fourth of July!"

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Thanks to media coverage picking up on the Iowa DNR’s recent warning about wild parsnip, last year’s post about that hazardous plant and poison hemlock has become the most-viewed edition of Iowa wildflower Wednesday. This weekend’s follow-up with more pictures of wild parsnip has become the most-shared Bleeding Heartland piece about wildflowers, which is ironic, since very few of more than 125 posts in this series have featured European invaders.

Some people confuse wild parsnip with golden Alexanders, a North American native with small yellow flowers. But the plants look quite different, and golden Alexanders tend to boom earlier in the year than wild parsnip.

Iowa wildflower weekend: The dreaded wild parsnip

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources put out a warning this week about an invasive and poisonous plant that has become prevalent in the state.

Though not native to North America, wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is has spread across most of our continent. I see massive stands near I-80 and I-35 on the west side of the Des Moines area, as well as along lots of country roads.

Many Iowans googling wild parsnip have landed on my post from last year about this plant and the notorious poison hemlock. On my way home from scoping out prairie wildflowers in Dallas County yesterday, I decided to take more pictures of the plant, along with other flowers you may see blooming close to it this time of year.

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