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.

Dave and Patty are lifelong residents of Cerro Gordo County. They inherited the farm from Dave’s parents, and before that it belonged to Dave’s grandparents.

The Hansens wanted to see their farm land restored back to prairie and be preserved for future generations to enjoy. They recognize and agree with the management efforts of the Cerro Gordo Conservation board and chose to ask the board to assist in opening up 197 acres to the public and for preservation.

On July 13, Dave and Patty walked the North Iowa Nature Club through the now restored prairie. As we walked together over the land, you could tell that Dave and Patty knew each little knoll and divot of the land. They knew the soil on the top of the hill was sandy, and over here is a wet spot for a prairie pothole.

The forbs now growing had been seeded by the Hansens by hand. Hands that love prairie restoration.

During the prairie walk, I tried to capture images of the wildflowers that were blooming at the time as well as write down the wildflowers that will be flowering later. One of the first plants that are hard to miss is pale Indian plaintain. This 5 foot tall brushy plant with a flat-topped blossoming umbel of white blossoms stands out above the other growing prairie plants.

We stopped to recognize its maple leaf-shaped leaves.

One of the favorite wildflowers, the tall prairie cinquefoil, was in abundance on the prairie. I had never seen so many in one place!

Patty explained that can happen when you have a restored prairie and the seeds get scattered by hand. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed all the prairie cinquefoil together.

We loved the wild bergamot (also known as bee balm or horsemint) blooming and reminded ourselves that buffalo used to roam the prairie and step on the forbs too.

Patty was pleased to find flowering spurge growing. I had a hard time capturing a good photo of the small flower.

Butterfly milkweed catches everyone’s attention with its brilliant orange display of flowers.

This picture captures butterfly milkweed with another prairie cinquefoil, flowering spurge in the background, and two different blazing stars pre-bloom. (Rough blazing star in the foreground and prairie blazing star in the background.)

This wild white indigo was past bloom and already forming its seed capsules.

Wild quinine is always a good find.

Pale purple coneflowers adding to the picturesque landscape.

And of course the unique, easy to identify wildflower rattlesnake master.

The questions and sharing of information about wildflowers went on through out the evening. Here over leadplant:

And again over prairie coreposis:

I feel like I am not capturing the whole beauty of the new prairie. We walked past spiderworts with spent flowers next to rough blazing star that were preparing for their turn to bloom. In a little pothole, spike rush, arrowhead and a northern water plaintain were present. False asters, Canada goldenrod, and stiff goldenrod were getting ready for their fall show.

Cup plants and compass plants were a little slower in making their appearance, but give them a few years to get established in their parts. Here are leaves on a young cup plant.

A giant St. John’s wort caught my attention at the end of the walk. Their brilliant yellow bloom is very pleasing to the eye.

The Hansen Wildlife Area abuts a wetland preserve cared for by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. With the addition of the Hansen Prairie, half of the section is now in reserve. Cerro Gordo County manages more than 35 outdoor areas. Some are parks, others wildlife areas. The addition of this large, wonderful prairie adds to the diversity of outdoor areas open to the public.

The generosity of this amazing donation to the county is surpassed by the love of the land Dave and Patty have and their willingness and desire to share it with others. Thank you Dave and Patty Hansen for this unselfish gift to us and future generations.

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  • What a very wonderful gift to Iowa's future...

    …especially with so much obvious floral diversity on a sizable piece of land. This kind of unbroken good-quality prairie is one of the rarest and most-needed kinds of wildlife habitat in Iowa, apart from its other numerous conservation and public benefits.

    Three enormous heartfelt cheers for Dave and Patty Hansen.

  • Wonderful!

    Thank you Dave and Patty Hansen – just Wonderful!