Favorite wildflowers of Iowa's 2022 Democratic ticket

For this post-primary election edition of Iowa wildflower Wednesday, I asked all of Iowa’s Democratic nominees for federal or statewide offices about their favorite wildflowers.

The candidates could choose any flowering plant. It didn’t have to be a native species or one that tends to bloom in Iowa around this time of year.

I’m presenting the wildflower choices in the same order the candidates appeared on the Iowa Secretary of State’s 2022 primary candidate list.

U.S. Senate nominee Mike Franken picked sweet coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa). I find these plants difficult to distinguish from black-eyed Susans (more on those below). Fortunately, Wendie Schneider gave me permission to publish her photographs of sweet coneflower.

Wendie has a gift for capturing insects on wildflowers. In this image, a checkerspot butterfly is perched on the sweet coneflower disk flowers.

Christina Bohannan, the Democratic candidate in Iowa’s first Congressional district, is a fan of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica). These bloom in my yard every year and tend to spread if conditions are favorable.

Speaking of backyard flowers, IA-02 Democratic nominee Liz Mathis shared this picture of purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) blooming in her own garden.

I didn’t hear back from Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03).

Ryan Melton, the Democratic nominee in the fourth Congressional district, told me, “This is probably a weird answer but I really like the Creeping Charlie in my backyard. I know it’s a weed, but I think it looks nice.”

It’s not weird, Ryan! Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), better known as creeping Charlie, is quite attractive, even if this non-native species is unpopular with gardeners.

Moving to the statewide offices, nominee for governor Deidre DeJear’s favorite wildflowers are woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus). I haven’t featured these plants and find them difficult to distinguish from other Helianthus species, like Jerusalem artichoke.

Lora Conrad came to the rescue with this close-up shot of a woodland sunflower.

Secretary of state nominee Joel Miller told me that growing up on a dairy farm, he didn’t notice the wildflowers as much as the corn, oats, sorghum, or soybeans. Which of those crops did he like best? He picked sorghum.

There are many sorghum varieties, so I can’t be sure this picture resembles what was planted on the Miller family farm in Buchanan County. I found the photo in a document produced by the “Beginning Farmer Center” at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.

State Auditor Rob Sand told me,

Being kind of a cheapskate, I love what I consider Iowa’s low-budget sunflower, the Black-eyed Susan. It isn’t as grand or massive as actual sunflowers, but even just its little bit of yellow can bring just as much joy. Then, the fact that you can find them everywhere from quiet meadows to roadside ditches makes them even better. Shouldn’t joy be just that commonplace?

Speaking of plants you may find in along the side of the road as well as in higher-quality habitats, I photographed these black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) flowers next to some wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) plants, also known as or horsemint or bee balm.

State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald’s favorite wildflowers are wild rose (Rosa blanda). That happens to be our state flower, and it used to be more prevalent in ditches. But herbicides have destroyed countless populations.

Lora Conrad shared this stunning image of wild rose blooming in southeast Iowa.

Secretary of agriculture nominee John Norwood sent me this picture of Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), which he described as “Beauty at our doorstep!” Like Virginia bluebells, these natives are popular garden plants.

Attorney General Tom Miller’s campaign manager Jacob Hamblin told me, “Tom has a hard time picking favorites.” While he enjoys all of the flowers he finds across the state, he is especially fond of the ones “you can find around Effigy Mounds.”

I’m embarrassed to say I have never visited Effigy Mounds National Monument in Allamakee County. But the official Effigy Mounds Facebook page shared this photo by Kathrine Busse of the National Park Service last September. It shows a rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), which is an endangered species, visiting goldenrod plants in the park’s restored prairie.

About the Author(s)

Laura Belin

  • Favorite wildflower

    I’ll play…there’s nothing quite like seeing a carpet of blue Scilla taking over part of a lawn in the Spring.

  • That was a really nice list of wildflowers!

    Thank you for asking the candidates, and thank you to the candidates for responding.

  • What a fun idea for a post!

    There’s not a dud in the bunch here, but I’ll give a special shoutout to Ryan Melton because I also think creeping Charlie/ground ivy is lovely. When I bought my first house, all my home-owning friends were quick to tell me I’d want to get rid of all the creeping Charlie in my (tiny) front yard. But this brown-thumb gardener thought it really classed up the joint. 🙂

  • Creeping Charlie is absolutely pretty...

    …and though it is non-native and invasive, it provides food for pollinators in urban places that have few other flowers. Manicured lawns provide nothing. Charlie doesn’t provide much pollen, but it provides good nectar.

    Also, as a fun fact, Charlie uses a neat trick to keep pollinators pollinating. In a blooming patch of Charlie, most of the flowers have very little nectar, but about eight percent of the flowers have a whole lot. So bees keep searching for the jackpots.

    Good pollinator habitat has a variety of native flowers. But for a bee in a city of mowed grass and concrete, Charlie provides a much-needed drink. Yay Charlie.

  • Love it!

    A really fun post – love it!