Lora Conrad

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: American Burnweed

Lora Conrad profiles a weedy native plant that favors disturbed ground.

Known variously as American Burnweed or Fireweed or Pilewort, Erechtites hieraciifolius (Senecio hieraciifolius is an earlier synonym) is found throughout Iowa as well as states east of Iowa. The names burnweed and fireweed result from its penchant for occurring in recently burned areas.

Why the other common name? Well, some indigenous peoples extracted oil from the plant and used it to treat piles, also known as hemorrhoids, thus the moniker pilewort.

It is a native summer annual in much of the U.S., as well as Central and South America. With its penchant for disturbed soil, you may see it sprinkled about or exploding in great numbers in recently disturbed soils, replanted prairies, roadsides, open woods, and renovated wetlands. It follows human habitation and disturbance of the soil. While considered “weedy,” it is not invasive. It tends to fade away as new plantings get more established. Despite its obvious appreciation for replanted prairies and native status, it is not listed in the UI “Iowa Prairie Plants” online.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: What is that plant, flower, or fruit?

Lora Conrad reviews nine useful resources for plant identification in Iowa.

Whether you are new to learning about Iowa wildflowers and native shrubs and trees or have been studying them as a hobby for some years, you are sure to see a plant or flower that you just can’t identify. Before posting a question for the experts on your local wildflower or flora Facebook page, you might want to see what you can learn about the plant and determine yourself.

Three types of resources are widely available: plant identification applications for a smart phone, public web pages from authoritative sources, and books. Each source can be useful but not always sufficient.

The purpose of this article is to compare the reference books that have helped me most in identifying plants in the woodlands, prairies, waysides, river banks, and roadsides of Iowa, as well as in my untamed yard. These are recommendations from a determined wildflower enthusiast—not from a botanist. So with that caveat, please read on.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: American pokeweed (Poke)

I learned a lot from Lora Conrad‘s pictures and commentary about a native plant that some consider a nuisance. -promoted by Laura Belin

Do you call it Pokeweed or Pokesalad? That tells your attitude about Poke—do you yank it out / cut it down, or do you look forward to clipping young leaves and cooking them (carefully) as a side dish?

American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) also has numerous other, though less common names, including pokeberry, polk salad, and poke sallet, both of which seem to be corruptions of poke salad. The name “Poke” most likely comes from the Algonquian word pokan, meaning bloody.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Prairie trillium (Trillium recurvatum)

Lora Conrad shares spectacular photographs of a hard-to-find spring wildflower. -promoted by Laura Belin

The first spring you spot one in bloom, you will be spellbound. A strange but enthralling flower with sepals down and petals up in an unlikely maroon or wine-red color atop three mottled leaves on a single skinny scape perhaps a foot high. You’ve just found a Trillium recurvatum!

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