Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Wild geranium

This “common plant of woodlands” is one of my favorite sights in the spring. The first flowers on wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) usually appear in late April or early May in central Iowa. Occasionally known as spotted geranium or cranesbill, this species is native to most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. It can thrive in a variety of habitats–“floodplain and upland woodlands, savannas, meadows in wooded areas, semi-shaded seeps, and rocky glades”–and makes a “wonderful shade garden plant.”

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Dame's rocket

Since Bleeding Heartland’s Iowa wildflower series began in 2012, I’ve had an editorial bias toward native plants. But occasionally I have covered non-native species. Last weekend, I saw large stands of poison hemlock blooming in ditches and near railroad tracks. I haven’t seen wild parsnip flowering yet, but that will happen anytime now.

Today’s featured wildflowers are often confused with the native Prairie phlox. But those bright pink flowers have five petals, while blossoms of the European invader Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) have four.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Sweet William (Wild blue phlox)

If you venture into the woods or along a wooded trail over the Memorial Day weekend, you will have a good chance of spotting the blue-violet or reddish-purple flowers on this native plant. Sweet William usually begins blooming in April, but I didn’t see any flowers this year until May. Also known as wild blue phlox or woodland phlox, this species is native to most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains.

What appear to be five petals on each flower are actually lobes. I believe all of the enclosed photographs show the subspecies Phlox divaricata laphamii, which “has a more western range,” according to the Illinois Wildflowers website. A subspecies called Phlox divaricata divaricata has lobes with notched tips and is generally found in Indiana or to the east.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Violet wood sorrel

The Virginia bluebells are fading fast in my corner of central Iowa, but the pink blossoms of spring beauty are still prevalent, along with Jack-in-the-pulpits and striped white violets. May apples (umbrella plants) are near their peak, and the first blossoms of sweet Cicely and Aunt Lucy are starting to appear. Virginia waterleaf won’t be far behind.

I’ve wanted to write about today’s featured wildflowers since Eileen Miller pointed them out near a trail in Dolliver Memorial State Park three years ago. In 2016 and 2017, I looked in vain for colonies of Violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea) on my spring walks through wooded areas. Fortunately, Marla Mertz and Lora Conrad have generously shared their photographs of this “delicate” plant, with five-petaled flowers that can be lavender or pink or purple. You may be lucky enough to find these blooming in woodlands or moist prairies during the next several weeks. The species is native to most of the U.S. other than a handful of states west of the Rocky Mountains.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Celebrating skunk cabbage

Luther College Associate Professor Beth Lynch educates the Bleeding Heartland community about a rare early spring wildflower. For those who missed it, I highly recommend her post about witch hazel from last October. -promoted by desmoinesdem

One weekend in early April the tourists showed up in town. They were thicker than flies around here. I’ll admit that most of them were here for a new beer release at one of the local breweries, but I also spotted some wild plant tourists tromping around the woods in search of skunk cabbage.

Skunk cabbage is not the first plant to bloom each spring. That award almost always goes to the silver maple trees. And, it is certainly not as cute as the pussy willow buds. So, why are the tourists coming to see skunk cabbage in the mucky swamps around northeastern Iowa?

Continue Reading...
View More...