Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Downy yellow painted cup

Patrick Swanson features an unusual plant growing on the Harrison County prairie he is restoring. -promoted by Laura Belin

Here we are in late spring. Seeing the prairie flowers begin their parade of blooms this year has been providing me with much needed mental respite from the travails of enduring the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.  The resilience of spring flowers in the face of an ever-changing environment, and their interdependence with pollinators offer good reminders of what we should aspire to in ourselves.

Speaking of interdependence, last year I posted an essay describing the lifestyle of a late-summer blooming hemiparasitic plant found on my Loess Hills prairie called Slenderleaf false foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia).

This year, I thought I would use my first Wildflower Wednesday post to describe another curious hemiparasitic plant living on my prairie, the almost ghostly pale-green Downy Yellow Painted Cup (Castilleja sessiliflora). Its other common names include yellow Indian paintbrush or downy paintbrush.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Fragrant sumac

Today’s featured Iowa native is a woody shrub rather than a wildflower, and it’s far from the most beautiful plant blooming on my block right now. But Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) is a hardy plant and good option to consider for landscaping, especially if you need something deer won’t destroy. We had these bushes planted some years ago to replace non-native shrubs (if I recall correctly, they were the highly invasive honeysuckle). They’ve survived tough winters, and the deer we see frequently in this corner of Windsor Heights don’t care for the foliage.

Fragrant sumac is native to almost all of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. According to the Illinois Wildflowers site, it thrives in “full or partial sun, dry conditions, and soil that is sandy or rocky. However, this shrub will adapt to mesic conditions with fertile loamy soil if there is not too much competition from other species of plants.” Small bees or flies will visit the flowers.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Swamp buttercup (Hispid buttercup)

If you venture into wet wooded areas in the springtime, there’s a good chance you’ll find some bright yellow flowers. Buttercups can be difficult to distinguish from one another, and multiple sub-species are commonly known as swamp buttercup. I believe the pictures enclosed below are Ranunculus hispidus (hispid buttercup or bristly buttercup).

Some sources refer to a closely related plant as Ranunculus septentrionalis (swamp buttercup), while other sources no longer distinguish between Ranunculus septentrionalis and Ranunculus hispidus. Both species are native to most of the U.S. and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains.

The Illinois Wildflowers website says of swamp buttercup,

This species often grows in soggy areas of woodlands that are too wet for some invasive species, such as Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard). Therefore, populations of Swamp Buttercup remain reasonably secure. This plant is also able to tolerate some degradation of its habitat from other causes.

Incidentally, now would be a good time to pull up garlic mustard if you come across any in nature.

Follow me after the jump for images of swamp buttercup.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday returns: Spring beauty

It’s been a stressful spring for most of us. But if you can get to a trail or a wooded area–keeping a safe distance from others–you will be treated to a wide variety of native plants blooming now. I’m launching the ninth year of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series (full archive here) with a common woodland plant that is near its peak across much of Iowa: Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica).

Also known as Virginia spring beauty, these plants “will adapt to semi-shaded areas of lawns if mowing is delayed during the spring.” The species is native to most of the U.S. and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains.

Spring beauty has a longer blooming season than some spring wildflowers, like dogtooth violets or Dutchman’s breeches. It can bloom from March through May in Iowa. This year, I didn’t see any flowers until April.

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

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: A DIY bee house using native prairie plants

Patrick Swanson interrupts the winter hiatus of Bleeding Heartland’s Iowa wildflowers series with some lovely pictures and useful tips. -promoted by Laura Belin

Here we are in the deep throes of winter. A wistful melancholy arises from memories of greener and more colorful landscapes, and the dark days and cold dampness of our climate this time of year seems to cage us indoors, leaving us restless with cabin fever.

But the winter landscape has its own serenity, and those adventurous enough to face the chill are often rewarded by sights and sounds unique to the season. 

Last year about this time, I posted an essay here with pictures from a winter snowshoe trek depicting how the new-fallen snow transformed plants on my prairie into more magical, snow-capped versions of themselves.

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