Recap of Iowa wildflower Wednesdays from 2017

The sixth year of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series was the most rewarding for me. I learned to identify several “new” native plants, captured a few flowers I’d been hoping to feature for years, and showcased more work by guest photographers than ever before.

I enclose below links to all 32 editions of Iowa wildflower Wednesday from 2017, with one picture from each post. Please let me know if you are interested in contributing to this series next year, especially if you have good photographs of species not covered before at this site.

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2017 guest authors

Bleeding Heartland published 140 guest posts by 81 authors in 2016, a record since the blog’s creation in 2007.

I’m happy to report that the bar has been raised: 83 authors contributed 164 guest posts to this website during 2017. Their work covered an incredible range of local, statewide, and national topics.

Some contributors drew on their professional expertise and research, writing in a detached and analytical style. Others produced passionate and intensely personal commentaries, sometimes drawing on painful memories or family history.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Asters from Phil Specht's northeast Iowa farm

For the sixth straight year, I’m wrapping up my weekly wildflower series with asters, which are often among the last native plants blooming around Iowa. This installment is special, though, because Phil Specht shared photographs of asters growing on his property in Clayton County.

Phil has been “running a grass-based, rotationally grazed dairy” for decades. His farm became a “working ecosystem” supporting a phenomenal number of grassland birds, thanks to the diversity of plants and insects. You can learn more about his pasture management practices by listening to this podcast produced by the Land Stewardship Project or Phil’s interview with Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Asters can be notoriously difficult to distinguish from one another. Phil made educated guesses about some of the plants pictured below but would welcome help with the IDs. He believes “most of northeast Iowa’s native species are represented”; “The farm borders the woods and has a little soil that is of prairie origin, so a wide range of habitat.”

Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return during the spring of 2018. The full archive links to photographs of approximately 170 native plant species. That number will hit 200 sometime next year.

Finally, I want to wish the Bleeding Heartland community a happy Thanksgiving and express my gratitude to all who stop by. I’m especially thankful for the photographers who allowed me to publish their work during 2017: Phil Specht, Eileen Miller, Lora Conrad, Wendie Schneider, Beth Lynch, and Katie Byerly.

Now, enjoy some of Clayton County’s lovely asters.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Prairie dock

Before Bleeding Heartland’s wildflower series goes on winter break, let’s revisit a late summer bloomer. Today’s featured plant is one of four native species in the Silphium branch of the aster family. (The others, which also have yellow composite flowers, are cup plant, compass plant, and rosinweed.)

Prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum), sometimes known as prairie rosinweed, is among the tallest plants on the tallgrass prairie. The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists Iowa as part of its native range. My understanding is that while prairie dock is common throughout Illinois, it doesn’t really belong in most parts of Iowa. However, I’ve seen it in several Des Moines area prairie plantings, where it blooms in August and September.

According to the Illinois Wildflowers website, prairie dock tolerates drought and “rocky or gravelly soil” well. Though “rather slow to develop,” this “long-lived plant” is “very reliable and nearly indestructible when mature.”

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Wingstem

I’ve never felt more depressed working on a wildflowers post than I did while putting the finishing touches on the November 9, 2016 edition of Iowa wildflower Wednesday.

Yesterday’s elections around Iowa and the country put me in a sunnier frame of mind, so today I am featuring the bright yellow flowerheads of wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia).

This member of the aster family is native to most states east of the Rocky Mountains. In Iowa, wingstem typically blooms in the late summer and early fall. Although these plants are sometimes called yellow ironweed, they look nothing like the bright pink or purple ironweed often seen along Iowa roads and trails during the summer.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Riddell's goldenrod

I’m thrilled to share another talented photographer’s images of a native plant I’ve never seen. Wildflower enthusiast Katie Byerly found these plants growing in Rock Falls (Cerro Gordo County) in September. Experts in the Iowa Wildflower Report Facebook group confirmed her identification of Riddell’s goldenrod (Oligoneuron riddellii), an uncommon species mostly found in Midwestern states and a couple of Canadian provinces.

The scientific name used to be Solidago riddellii, but Leland Searles explained to me, “The genus was changed to Oligoneuron for Riddell’s and Stiff Goldenrods (O. rigidum). They are unlike genus Solidago [most other goldenrods] in several ways.”

Katie went back to Rock Falls a few days ago, hunting for witch hazel after reading Beth Lynch’s post here last week. She had also hoped to find some Riddell’s goldenrod gone to seed. Alas, “the county mowed it up.” It happens. Fortunately, she captured plenty of beautiful shots earlier in the fall.

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