Recap of Iowa wildflower Wednesdays from 2021

It’s hard to believe Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series is ten years old. I could not have made it through this year without assistance from guest authors and photographers. Katie Byerly, Lora Conrad, Tommy Hexter and Jacy Highbarger, Elizabeth Marilla, Marla Mertz, Bruce Morrison, Leland Searles, Kenny Slocum, and Patrick Swanson wrote a total of fifteen posts during 2021. They and others (Kim El-Baroudi, Janette Foust, and Mary Riesberg) also contributed photographs to several of my posts.

One of my new year’s resolutions is to visit more state parks or wildlife preserves, and get out to Mike Delaney’s restored Dallas County prairie more regularly. The last couple of years I haven’t gone wildflower hunting as often as I did before the pandemic.

This series will return sometime during April or May of 2022. Please reach out if you have photographs to share, especially of native plants I haven’t featured yet. The full archive of more than 250 posts featuring more than 220 wildflower species is available here.

For those looking for wildflower pictures year round, or seeking help with plant ID, I recommend the Facebook groups Flora of Iowa or Iowa wildflower enthusiasts.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Fall berries and seeds

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m wrapping up the tenth year of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series. I’m so grateful to the guest authors who contributed posts and photographs this year: Katie Byerly, Lora Conrad, Tommy Hexter and Jacy Highbarger, Elizabeth Marilla, Marla Mertz, Bruce Morrison, Leland Searles, Kenny Slocum, and Patrick Swanson.

Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return sometime during the spring of 2022. Please let me know if you would like to write about any one plant, or group of plants that thrive in a similar habitat, or special place or trail. Anyone on Facebook can connect with nature lovers year round in the Iowa wildflower enthusiasts group, which now has more than 5,300 members.

To close out this year’s series, Lora Conrad contributed nine photographs of berries or berry-like fruit that can be found on plants in Van Buren County at this time of year. All but one are native to Iowa.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: A fungal takeover

Elizabeth Marilla is a mental health worker, writer, picture-taker, hiker, and mom living in Iowa. Connect with her on instagram at iowa.underfoot.

Wildflowers were a gateway to Mycophilia for me. Until very recently, I could only name and identify the most famous mushrooms I might wish for while walking around looking at wildflowers: Morel, Chanterelle, and Chicken of the Woods.

This post is dedicated the members of the Prairie States Mushroom Club, who warmly welcomed me into this bottomless new pastime during the pandemic, and who have very generously taught me many new things about the fungal biodiversity of Iowa–in particular Sarah, Glen, Roger, Marty, and Dean. These folx spotted some of the mushrooms pictured below. There are no additional forays planned for this year, but all fascinated newbies (as well as those with years of expertise) are welcome to join the club again next spring.

This post is also dedicated to the vigilant, patient, and devoted administrators of the Iowa Mushrooms Facebook page, total strangers who have been great teachers, helping me identify so many scrappy little specimens at all hours of the day and night! Impassioned beginners desperately need people like them. Luckily, it appears that the mushroom-loving community includes many genius laypeople, as well as quite a few very cool scientists.

Pictured below are ten of my favorite mushrooms found and photographed in southeast Iowa this summer and fall, with friends and often with my 3-year-old daughter. I have included a few of her recent mushroom drawings at the bottom of the post.

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An affair with the landscape

Bruce Morrison shares some of the northwest Iowa landscapes he has photographed or painted. Top image: “View From Brian’s Overlook- Sunrise No.1” – (NW Clay County – photograph – © Bruce A. Morrison)

When my wife and I moved to our little acreage in northwest Iowa nearly 20 years ago, I had already experienced a lifetime of love and reverence for the Landscape. I can still remember my summers as a youngster on the Des Moines River, which I lived above in Fort Dodge, and almost daily hikes down the railroad tracks to a friend’s farm west of town – where the Lizard Creek spread below their “night pasture”, as they called it…and met downstream with the north fork where the Chicago Northwestern track crossed the waterway’s junction.

The hillsides above the creek were favored respites to lay on in the summer sun and dry off after a swimming hole visit or after wading a good fishing hole; and many times just to watch the valley’s pair of Red-tail Hawks magically hanging in the air high overhead. The views always left me wanting to hold them fast in my memory; it was an emotion I never shook.

“Red-tail Migration” – (pencil drawing – © Bruce A. Morrison)

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Remembering Neal Smith

I was so sorry to hear that former U.S. Representative Neal Smith passed away on November 2 at the age of 101. Iowa’s longest-serving member of the U.S. House represented Polk County in Congress for 36 years, rising to the third-ranking position on the powerful Appropriations Committee. He had tremendous knowledge and wisdom. Having grown up poor during the Great Depression, he sought to use government to improve people’s lives.

I didn’t know Smith well but I always enjoyed seeing him at Democratic events, most recently at a Polk County or Third District event in 2018. The last time we spoke on the phone was in the summer of 2019, when I was working on a piece about the first passage of the Hyde amendment. At the age of 99, Smith recalled details about that 1976 House floor vote clearly.

Of all the events canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the one I was saddest about was the planned celebration of Smith’s 100th birthday at Drake University in March 2020.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Missouri goldenrod

Distinguishing goldenrods is a tricky business, even for plant experts. For this post, I am relying on the insight of Leland Searles. He reviewed a few of my photographs and worked through “the key for genus Solidago” to arrive at Missouri Goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis). Leland ruled out Canada goldenrod “because it has green leaves almost to the ground instead of withered leaves from midstem to base; it appears not to have any hair below midstem; and the compound flower heads are large, larger than I’d expect for Canada Goldenrod.”

You might find Missouri goldenrod in a range of habitats, including “black soil prairies, clay prairies, dolomite prairies, hill prairies, limestone glades, prairie remnants along railroads, and thickets in upland areas.” But I took all of the pictures enclosed below in a drainage area next to a Windsor Heights school parking lot.

As Illinois Wildflowers points out, this species (like most goldenrods) is “easy to grow.” In an open prairie, it may form “large spreading colonies.” But even a few plants (as in the small space I photographed) will likely attract a wide range of pollinators.

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