Katie Byerly

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Northern Monkshood

Katie Byerly of Cerro Gordo County is also known as Iowa Prairie Girl on YouTube.

I’d like to say that my goal is to see all the wildflowers of Iowa—preferably when they are in bloom. I’m not even sure if that goal is measurable, but I do like to hunt for wildflowers that I haven’t yet seen. I’m still new enough to the wildflower hunting game that I’m am not even aware sometimes of what I should be hunting for.

In 1978, the Northern Monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense) or Northern Wild Monkshood was placed on the federally threatened plant list. I read about monkshood in 2021 on a kiosk at Backbone State Park in Delaware County, Iowa. This kiosk set in motion my three-year quest to find the rare species.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Blueflag Iris

Katie Byerly of Cerro Gordo County is also known as Iowa Prairie Girl on YouTube.

I remember the first time I saw a wild iris in a prairie wetland. I had no idea wild irises existed and wondered who took the time to plant an iris a mile from a road. Since then I have found Blue Flag or Blueflag Iris (Iris Virginica)—also known as Wild Blueflag Iris, Southern Blueflag, or Virginia Iris—in many marshes, wet ditches and even flooded woodlands.

Still, finding a wild iris is always still a pleasant surprise.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Edible Valerian

Katie Byerly features yet another native plant I’ve never seen. She has a knack for finding the rare ones! Katie is also known as Iowa Prairie Girl on YouTube.

Is Edible Valerian (Valeriana edulis) edible or not? Valerian is also called Tobacco Root. According to the Montana Plant Life website, some Native Americans cooked the root for two days before eating it. The same site notes, “It has a very strong and peculiar taste that is offensive to some people but agreeable to others.”

Minnesota Wildflowers compares early European accounts of the carrot-like taproot to the usual discussion on lutefisk—meaning you either like it or hate it. I doubt anyone is currently baking valerian root in the ground for days to avoid hunger, but do note that it is poisonous raw.

The only location I have found edible Valerian is in the native prairie in Wilkinson Pioneer Park in Rock Falls (Cerro Gordo County). In north Iowa and at Wilkinson Park, this plant is one of the first taller fluorescence to appear in the spring. While short and almost hidden yellow star and blue-eyed grasses are blooming close to the ground, edible Valerian pop up to one to four feet above early spring prairie flowers.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: White wild indigo

Katie Byerly shares another spectacular series of wildflower photos from northeast Iowa. Katie is also known as Iowa Prairie Girl on YouTube.

What is your favorite wildflower? I enjoy so many that it’s a hard question to answer. I do know that whenever I see White wild indigo (Baptisia alba macrophylla), I can’t help but smile.

Let me share a few reasons why this is one of my favorite wildflowers.

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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.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: A visit to the Rock Creek Wildlife Area

Katie Byerly shares photos of more than 20 plants flowering in northern Iowa’s lovely Rock Creek Wildlife Area. Katie is also known as Iowa Prairie Girl on YouTube.

Last week I was fortunate to have time off on a beautiful, sunny day with temperatures in the low 80s. So on June 29, I loaded up my two yellow labradors, Prairie Dog and Meadow, and headed to the Rock Creek Wildlife Area five miles south of Osage (Mitchell County).

I was introduced to the Rock Creek area last summer while attending a Master Conservationist Course sponsored by the Iowa State University Extension Office. The mycountyparks.com website describes the area as 160 acres of wetland, restored prairie, upland and riparian forest with Rock Creek flowing through the central part of the area.

Be warned: after parking in a typical small county park parking lot, you have to cross Rock Creek by foot. The two previous trips I had made to Rock Creek the water was ankle deep and there are large rocks you can maneuver on to avoid wet feet.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Cream gentian

Katie Byerly features a delicate plant that blooms in the late summer.

There are more than 400 gentian species globally, with most growing in the mountains in Europe. In Iowa one might be lucky to find seven different species of gentian. Six of those have brilliant bluish purple flowers. Then there is Cream Gentian (Gentiana alba), also called Pale, Plain, or Yellow Gentian. Cream gentian flowers can be an off-white creamy color, or a yellowish white or a greenish white.

No matter what color you find, all flowers share the greenish yellow venation on the petals.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Common mullein

Common Mullein, Great Mullein and Woolly Mullein are all names for the same plant, a non-native weed introduced from Europe in the early 1800s. It has spread so widely that it is now considered naturalized. Common mullein can be found in all 50 states, and even though it is a weed, it is not pesty (at least not in Iowa).

Of all the Iowa wildflowers, this plant has some of the most fun nicknames, including Cowboy Toiletpaper, Quaker’s Rouge, Torch Flower, Flannel Plant, Tinder Plant, and Aaron’s Rod.

If you are a wildflower enthusiast, someone not familiar with common mullein may ask you, “What is that tall fuzzy plant that I saw on the side of the road?”

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Purple rattlesnake-root (Glaucous white lettuce)

Katie Byerly, also known as Iowa Prairie Girl, profiles a rare, beautiful plant native to 20 states and most of Canada. -promoted by Laura Belin

I was walking through Ada Hayden Prairie in Howard County, Iowa, the first time I saw Purple rattlesnake-root (Prenanthes racemosa). Anytime I see a new plant I find myself thinking out loud “I wonder what that is?” But the first time I saw purple rattlesnake-root, sometimes called Glaucous white lettuce, it hadn’t bloomed yet and my wondering was more like “what the in the world is that??!” And maybe a few other words too.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Rough blazing star

Katie Byerly features an eye-catching sight on the late summer prairie. -promoted by Laura Belin

As other wildflowers are beginning to fade, Rough blazing star (Liatris aspera) is just getting started. Also called tall blazing star, this unbranched, upright plant grows to be between 2 and 5 feet tall, according to Illinois Wildflowers

Rough blazing star blossoms in a spike-like arrangement of pink to purple flowerheads up and down the stem. This spike adds wonderful electric rosy purple color to the natural scenescape.

Rough blazing star flowers start blooming at the upper tip of the plant in July. This first photo shows a monarch butterfly getting nutrients from a rough blazing star just starting to bloom.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Lesser fringed gentian

Katie Byerly has a knack for finding rare native plants. She’s also on YouTube at Iowa Prairie Girl. -promoted by Laura Belin

Serious birders compile a “Life List.” A list of all the bird species they have ever encountered.

When I seriously started studying Iowa wildflowers three years ago, I soon realized that finding a fall gentian is considered a bonus during a wildflower search. I remember being thrilled finding my first bottle gentian. As I added more gentian to my “life list”–cream, stiff, and downy–it began to seem as if the elusive fringed gentian, which inspired so many, was eluding me.

Finally this August, I was so pleased when I stumbled upon a fringed gentian in a wonderful little fen located in the southeast corner of Cerro Gordo County. It turned out to be Lesser fringed gentian (Gentianopsis virgata), sometimes known as smaller fringed gentian.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Cylindrical blazing star

Katie Byerly has a knack for finding unusual wildflowers. She also posts regularly on her Iowa Prairie Girl YouTube channel. -promoted by Laura Belin

During a camping trip in Floyd County with my son’s Boy Scout troop, I was pleasantly surprised to find this miniature blazing star growing everywhere on the dry clay hills of the Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve, located one mile west of Rockford on County Road B47.

Cylindrical blazing star (Liatris Cylindracea) is also known as Cylindric, Barrelhead, Dwarf or Ontario blazing star.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Purplestem Angelica

Katie Byerly shares her images of an amazing plant that she calls, “The Giant in the Wildflower World.” promoted by Laura Belin

Purplestem Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) towers over the other wildflowers at Wilkinson Park in Rock Falls, Iowa. It creates a beautiful background border to the wild roses blooming at the same time. These giant plants also stand in line along the edge of the Shell Rock River creating a unique view to the river from the park and visa versa river into the park.

Purplestem Angelica can be found in the northern counties of Iowa, and as you drive into Minnesota, you may see it in many moist ditches and river edges.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Stiff Gentian

Katie Byerly shares her knowledge and photographs of yet another wildflower I’ve never seen in the wild. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In his book The Secrets of Wildflowers, Jack Sanders calls Gentians the Royal Family of Wildflowers. Gentians are named after King Gentius, who ruled as the last Illyrian King from 181 to 168 BCE. It is believed that Gentius discoverd medicinal value from the plant and used it as an antidote to poison and in the dressing of wounds.

If we follow the belief that Gentians are the royal family of the wildflowers, I’d like to imagine the handsome King Fringed Gentian ruling his flower kingdom with his beautiful pale Queen Cream Gentian at his side. His brother Prince Bottled Gentian leads the flower army and is known for his strength. And then there is their rigid cousin Duke Stiff Gentian … he is often overlooked as part of the Gentian family as he quietly rules his northern counties.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Grass of Parnassus

Katie Byerly shares her images of a rare wetland plant she researched and photographed this summer. -promoted by desmoinesdem

“It’s pinstriped!” was a comment regarding my picture of Grass of Parnassus, posted in the Iowa Wildflower Report Facebook group. Its green-veined petals makes this plant easy to identify. . . if you can find it.

Marsh Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia glauca), also called Fen Grass of Parnassus or Bog-Stars, grows in wet calcareous habitats like fens, open ground water seepage areas, and wet prairies. The Minnesota Wildflowers and Illinois Wildflowers webpages both comment on the rarity of these habitats and subsequently this flower. Calcareous means to contain calcium carbonate occurring on chalk or limestone, and that’s exactly where I found my grass of Parnassus.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Small white lady's slipper

Nature enthusiast and talented photographer Katie Byerly shares images of a gorgeous and rare native plant. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Finding a new wildflower is always a treat. I was treated this spring when a wildflower friend, Ken Plagge, called to tell me that he had found a Small white lady’s slipper at Wilkinson Pioneer Park in Rock Falls (Cerro Gordo County). Also called White moccasin flower, Small white lady’s slipper (Cypripedium candidum) is a native orchid often associated with the words “rare” and “threatened.” It is found in prairie fens and wet/mesic prairies.

However, the treat did not end there. Ken and I soon found out from the Cerro Gordo County Conservation team that this flower’s presence had never been recorded at Wilkinson Pioneer Park. A short 24 hours after first seeing the plant, we were meeting with Mark Leoschke, a state botanist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, to help document the white lady’s slipper’s existence in Rock Falls.

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