Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Jumpseed

If you’ve walked near the woods or on a shady trail in the late summer or fall, you’ve probably passed by today’s featured plant, but you may not have noticed it. Jumpseed is native to most of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. This member of the buckwheat family thrives in shade or partial shade, especially near woodlands or thickets. It may “be more common in woodlands with a history of disturbance.” Its small flowers don’t attract much attention.

Many plants are known by variety of common names. Oddly, jumpseed seems to have no other common names, but several scientific names refer to the same plant. Illinois Wildflowers explains, “Jumpseed (Antenoron virginianum) has a history of taxonomic instability – scientific synonyms include Polygonum virginianum, Persicaria virginiana, and Tovara virginiana.”

I took all of the pictures enclosed below near my Windsor Heights home in September or October.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Flower of an hour

After showcasing many native plants last week, I decided to focus today on a non-native member of the mallow family. Flower of an hour (Hibiscus trionum) has spread widely across most of the U.S. and Canada. While many consider it a weed or pest, some people grow it as an ornamental. You may find it near roadsides or in residential yards.

I’ve seen more of these plants than usual this year, because a street improvement project in my Windsor Heights neighborhood tore up a lot of curbs and sidewalks. The disturbed ground was perfect habitat for non-native plants. Like velvetleaf/buttonweed, seeds from flower of an hour “can remain viable in the soil for several years, if not decades,” according to the Illinois Wildflowers website.

Capturing usable photos was more challenging than I expected. I often saw these blossoms while walking my dog. But many times, when I came back later the same day, the flowers were gone. Jackie Carroll explained on the Gardening Knowhow website that flower of an hour “gets its name from the pale yellow or cream colored blossoms with dark centers that only last a fraction of a day and don’t open at all on cloudy days.”

Lora Conrad came to the rescue again with lovely pictures she took in Van Buren County.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: A late summer walk on the prairie

Instead of focusing on one plant this week, I’d like to share photographs from my September 12 visit to Mike Delaney’s prairie in Dallas County. Mike’s property has provided source material for lots of Bleeding Heartland posts over the years, most recently this summer’s features on showy tick trefoil and starry campion.

Every time I explore the area, I find something I hadn’t seen before. You’d never guess this land next to the Middle Raccoon River was in corn and beans for decades before Mike spent about 25 years restoring the prairie.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Siberian Cranesbill

I was excited to find a patch of “new” (to me) wildflowers near the banks of North Walnut Creek a few weeks ago. Since I wasn’t familiar with these small pink flowers, I posted a few photos to the Iowa wildflower enthusiasts Facebook group. Lora Conrad quickly identified the plants as Siberian Cranesbill (Geranium sibiricum).

As the common name suggests, this species originated in Eurasia, not North America. Although I usually showcase native plants for Bleeding Heartland’s wildflower series, today will be one of my occasional exceptions.

Minnesota Wildflowers offered tips for distinguishing Siberian Cranesbill from the similar-looking native Bicknell’s Cranesbill. As Lora explained, the plant I photographed has single flower stalks, is hairy, and blooms in August and September—all signs pointing to the introduced species. The habitat (partial sun, loamy soil, near disturbed ground) is also consistent with where this species often thrives.

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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 evening primrose

I have a soft spot for native plants that can thrive in some of the least hospitable environments. The natural range of common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) covers most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains, and you’re as likely to find it by roadsides or in vacant lots as near woodland edges, prairies, or streams. These plants typically start blooming in July, but you may see some flowers as late as October.

Sometimes known as weedy evening-primrose, German rampion, hog weed, King’s cure-all, or fever-plant, common evening primrose has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Its seeds are used to produce evening primrose oil, which many take for various health conditions. My midwife recommended that I take evening primrose oil toward the end of my first pregnancy to help ripen the cervix.

The roots and parts of the plants are edible as well, though I’ve never tried cooking them. I took most of the pictures enclosed below in Windsor Heights or Urbandale in early September.

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