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 Haden 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: Wild bergamot (horsemint, bee balm)

Although autumn officially began this week, much of Iowa is experiencing summer-like weather, so I thought it fitting to feature a native plant that typically blooms from June through August. Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) can thrive on disturbed ground near roadsides as well as in high-quality prairie habitats or woodland edges. Also known as horsemint or bee balm, it is native to almost all of the U.S. and Canada.

You can often find wild bergamot growing along bike trails, and it’s a popular plant for restored prairies and butterfly gardens. Minnesota Wildflowers says of this “excellent garden plant,” “The dried leaves and flower heads are wonderfully aromatic; Bergamot oils have been used in natural healing for centuries.” A closely related plant called Oswego tea “was used as a beverage by the Oswego tribe of American Indians and was one of the drinks adopted by American colonists during their boycott of British tea,” according to the Britannica website.

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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: Rough cinquefoil

The overwhelming majority of wildflowers Bleeding Heartland has featured over the past eight and a half years have been native to North America. Occasionally I’ve showcased plants that are widespread in Iowa, even though they originated on other continents.

Rough cinquefoil (Potentilla norvegica) can’t be placed definitively in either group.

Its scientific name and alternate common name (Norwegian cinquefoil) suggest a European origin. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture considers the plant native to most of the country.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Trumpet vine (Trumpet creeper)

While some summer wildflowers are easy to overlook, you can’t miss Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) when it’s in bloom. Also known as Trumpet creeper, this woody vine is native to most of the U.S. but “can be weedy or invasive.” I haven’t seen it displacing native plants in Iowa, though.

A “favorite of hummingbirds” thanks to its large orange or reddish flowers, trumpet vine easily attaches itself to other plants, fences, or buildings.

I took most of the pictures enclosed below this week in Windsor Heights or Des Moines.

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