Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Prairie redroot (Narrow-leaved New Jersey tea)

Although today’s featured plant is native to most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains, I’d never seen Prairie redroot (Ceanothus herbaceus) before my first visit to Tipton Prairie in Greene County. Sometimes known as narrow-leaved New Jersey tea, inland New Jersey tea, Jersey tea, or simply redroot, this species thrives in relatively dry habitats, especially “upland woods, prairies, barrens.”

I took all of the enclosed pictures at Tipton Prairie, a never-plowed, four-acre “unique remnant,” during the last week of May. Prairie redroot flowers “about a month earlier” than its relative, New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus). I’ve been told that in Iowa, New Jersey tea plants rarely bloom before June, while redroot typically blooms in May.

Fun fact: Ceanothus species “can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.”

The Minnesota Wildflowers website and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center websites are good resources for botanically accurate descriptions of prairie redroot foliage, flowers, and fruit.

The white buds are still closed on many of these prairie redroot plants.

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Flowers are starting to open on this plant.

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Several shots of prairie redroot in full bloom:

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Tipton Prairie had some large colonies of these plants.

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Most of the flowers in this cluster are past their prime, but the buds on a few plants haven’t opened yet.

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Prairie redroot isn’t exactly a show-stopper. The bright pink prairie phlox blooming in the same area of Tipton Prairie is more likely to catch your eye.

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Prairie redroot with prairie phlox 2 photo redrootprairiephlox3_zpsflbfasgd.jpg

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Tags: Wildflowers

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  • The seed pods are pretty too

    The leaves of this plant really were used to make tea a few centuries ago. Nice photos!