Iowa wildflower Wednesday returns: Downy yellow violet

Iowa didn’t experience much severe winter weather this year, but the political climate was harsher than at any other time in living memory. After writing up too much bad news these past few months, I’m glad to revive Bleeding Heartland’s weekly wildflower series. Click here for the full archive of posts featuring more than 140 native plants and a few plants of European origin that are now widespread here.

Downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens) is native to all of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. In Iowa, you may see it near homes as well as in wooded areas. Except where noted below, I took most of the enclosed pictures not far from our house in Windsor Heights. However, most violets I see in people’s yards are purple or the white color variation of that flower, the common blue violet. Less often, you may find striped white violet, a separate species.

According to John Pearson of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Viola pubescens are the only yellow violets native to our state. The Minnesota Wildflowers site has botanically accurate descriptions of the foliage, flowers, and seeds. Common yellow violet or smooth yellow violet are alternate names for this plant.

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A year's worth of guest posts, plus tips for guest authors

One of my blogging new year’s resolutions for 2016 was to publish more work by other authors, and I’m grateful to the many talented writers who helped me meet that goal. After the jump I’ve linked to all 140 guest posts published here last year.

I encourage readers to consider writing for this site in 2017. Guest authors can write about any political issue of local, state, or national importance. As you can see from the stories enclosed below, a wide range of topics and perspectives are welcome here.

Pieces can be short or long, funny or sad. You can write in a detached voice or let your emotions show.

Posts can analyze what happened or advocate for what should happen, either in terms of public policy or a political strategy for Democrats. Authors can share first-person accounts of campaign events or more personal reflections about public figures.

Guest authors do not need to e-mail a draft to me or ask permission to pursue a story idea. Just register for an account (using the “sign up” link near the upper right), log in, write a post, edit as needed, and hit “submit for review” when you are ready to publish. The piece will be “pending” until I approve it for publication, to prevent spammers from using the site to sell their wares. You can write under your own name or choose any pseudonym not already claimed by another Bleeding Heartland user. I do not reveal authors’ identity without their permission.

I also want to thank everyone who comments on posts here. If you’ve never participated that way, feel free to register for a user account and share your views. If you used to comment occasionally but have not done so lately, you may need to reset your password. Let me know if you have any problems registering for an account, logging in, or changing a password. My address is near the lower right-hand corner of this page.

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Index of all Iowa wildflower Wednesdays

Bleeding Heartland’s weekly wildflower series has grown far beyond what I envisioned when I published the first Iowa wildflower Wednesday in March 2012. The search for material has taken me to many parks and nature preserves I’d never explored and connected me to some incredible photographers and naturalists, including Eileen Miller, Leland Searles, and Marla Mertz.

Many readers have told me the wildflower posts are among their favorites at the site. For a long time I’ve been meaning to collect all of the links in one place.

After the jump you’ll find the common and scientific names of nearly 150 species featured here so far. The date next to each plant’s name links to a post with multiple photographs. I would not have been able to identify most of these plants five years ago. Before my son’s interest in Jack-in-the-pulpits inspired me to start learning more about native plants in 2009, I could not have identified even a dozen of them.

I will continue to update this index once Iowa wildflower Wednesday returns during the spring of 2017.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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