Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Sweet William (blue phlox)

Here’s your mid-week open thread: all topics welcome. After the jump I’ve posted some photos of Sweet William, also known as blue phlox. Bleeding Heartland readers caught a glimpse of this flower in one of the May apple pictures a few weeks back, but the species is pretty enough for a separate diary.

As a bonus, I added two photos of an unusual Jack-in-the-pulpit I saw recently while pulling up garlic mustard (an invasive plant).

Sweet William grows in partly shaded woodland areas throughout Iowa. It can flower anytime between April and June, but the blooms have mostly come and gone already this year, because of our unusually early spring. The flowers are easy to identify. I’ve been telling people that phlox blooms have five petals, but technically, that is not correct. According to Wildflowers of Iowa Woodlands by Sylvan Runkel and Alvin Bull,

Individual flowers are slender tubes with five petal-like lobes. Lobes may either be rounded or with a shallow notch. Shape and depth of the notch may show considerable variation. Each lobe narrows toward the tube giving a distinct wedge shape. Individual flowers may be three-fourths of an inch or more across. Flowers are noted for their color, beauty, and fragrance.

Sweet William (blue phlox)-2, Sweet William blooming in central Iowa, April 2012

Many people plant Sweet William or closely related species in their gardens, and in prairie habitats you’ll often see prairie phlox, which has a similar shape. The Sweet William that grows in wooded areas usually has bluish or light purple flowers, although sometimes they look almost white.

Sweet William (blue phlox), Sweet William wildflowers blooming in central Iowa, April 2012

Before Sweet William flowers open up, the tubes look spiky. This photo has some phlox in bloom and some that haven’t opened yet. The deeper purple flowers in the center are violets, and there are some spring beauties in the upper right corner.

Sweet William with buds, Sweet William blooming in central Iowa, April 2012

Finally, I enclose a couple of new Jack-in-the-pulpit photos. It’s hard to get a sense of scale from the pictures in my Jack-in-the-pulpit diary, but the flower I spotted last week was the largest I’ve ever seen of that species. Each part of the three-part leaf was longer than my hand.

large jack-in-the-pulpit (2), Jack-in-the-pulpit blooming in Iowa, May 2012

large jack-in-the-pulpit, Jack-in-the-pulpit blooming in central Iowa, May 2012

Tags: Wildflowers

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