Katie Byerly

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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