# Wildflowers

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: A visit to the Hansen Wildlife Area

Katie Byerly shares photos of more than a dozen plants flowering in Cerro Gordo County’s Hansen Wildlife Area. Katie is also known as Iowa Prairie Girl on YouTube.

Thanks to Dave and Patty Hansen, Cerro Gordo County has a new beautiful community prairie! This spring the Hansen Wildlife Area was opened to the public, and as part of the celebration the North Iowa Nature Club toured the prairie with Dave and Patty has our guides.

The Hansen Wildlife Area is located on B20 north of Clear Lake, Iowa between Cardinal and Dogwood. It is already well marked with the usual brown sign and right away to a small parking area.

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Monarchs merit royal care

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

Who doesn’t love butterflies, especially monarch butterflies?

Let me share several verbal bouquets I encountered in reading articles about monarchs. “Showy looks.” “Extraordinary migration.” “One of the natural world’s wonders,” and, “one of the continent’s most beloved insects.” Unfortunately, I also came across some very troubling terms, like “endangered,” “vulnerable populations,” “declining precipitously” and “teeter(ing) on the edge of collapse.” Suffice to say, it all captured my attention.

Monarchs have been in the news a great deal lately. Appropriately so.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Rattlesnake master

Learning to identify some native plants can be challenging even for experts. But today’s featured species is, in the words of the Minnesota Wildflowers website, “a no-brainer,” since rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) is “a unique plant” and “startlingly different than most native plant forms.”

I’ve mostly seen rattlesnake master in prairie plantings, but according to Illinois Wildflowers, it’s “easy to grow” in sunny areas and “isn’t bothered by foliar disease nor many insect pests.” The species is native to about two dozen states east of the Rocky Mountains.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: American bellflower (Tall bellflower)

This week, I’m returning to one of my all-time favorites. I have a better camera now than when Bleeding Heartland featured American bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum) seven years ago, and these plants are easily accessible to me along wooded trails in Windsor Heights or Urbandale. Although I’m getting around reasonably well six months after severely breaking my ankle, I’m still not up to bike rides or very long walks.

Also known as tall bellflower, American bellflower is native to most states east of the Rocky Mountains. In Iowa, it usually starts blooming in early July, and you can often find some of the flowers well into the late summer. A couple of times I’ve even seen one of these plants blooming in October.

According to the Illinois Wildflowers website, “Habitats include moist to slightly dry deciduous woodlands, disturbed open woodlands, woodland borders, and thickets. This plant is often found along woodland paths, and it appears to prefer slightly disturbed areas.”

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: A thriving farm prairie strip

Early this month, Lee Tesdell invited me to the Prairie Strips Field Day he hosted at his family’s century farm in northern Polk County. I’ve visited many prairie restorations in progress, but this was my first encounter with a prairie strip in the middle of rowcrops.

Lee has long employed conservation practices on his farm and is five years into his prairie strip project. Every year, he finds new native plants in the corridor.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Fragile fern

Lora Conrad profiles a delicate native plant that is often overlooked.

Cystopteris protrusa (formerly C. fragilis var. protrusa) is variously called Southern Fragile Fern, Creeping Fragile Fern, Lowland Brittle Fern, and Southern Bladder Fern, as well as just Fragile Fern which we will use here. It is a relatively easy fern to identify as it grows in early spring and grows in soil, not on rock ledges.

Once you have seen the structure of the frond, you are likely to recognize it in the future. It is found in oak and hickory woodlands, both high quality natural habitat and significantly degraded woodlands. It is widely distributed in Iowa as documented by this BONAP (Biota of North America Program) map dated 2014.

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