Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Virginia stickseed

Today’s featured plant won’t win any popularity contests. In fact, I know people who rip Virginia stickseed (Hackelia virginiana) out of the ground as soon as they identify it anywhere on their property.

This common woodland species, sometimes just called stickseed, has unimpressive flowers that become irritating burs. The burs spawned the common names beggar’s lice or sticktight. I don’t pull up these plants like I do with garlic mustard, but I keep an eye out for them so my shoes, clothes, and dog don’t end up covered in burs.

Virginia stickseed is native to most of the U.S. and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. I frequently see it in the woods or near woodland edges. According to the Illinois Wildflowers site, “Stickseed prefers disturbed wooded areas and it is rather weedy.”

I took the pictures enclosed below in Windsor Heights, Clive, or Urbandale.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Leadplant

The flowers of this prairie inhabitant have eluded me for years. Fortunately, I have friends with better timing.

Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) is indigenous to most of the Midwest and plains states, but it’s not one of those native plants you’ll often see along the roadside, like ironweed.

Although leadplant (sometimes called lead plant) is not rare or threatened, I’ve only found it in good-quality prairies, where it “tends to grow in clumps.” The Illinois Wildflowers website validates my experience: “The presence of Leadplant is a sign of high quality habitat. Because of its deep roots, recovery from fire is very good.”

Speaking of which, the Friends of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden website notes that “The alternate name ‘Devil’s Shoestrings’ comes from the deep roots which farmers were never able to plough out.” The more common name of leadplant comes from “the whitish or hoary color tinge from the fine leaf and stem hair.”

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Enchanter's nightshade

Some wildflowers are show-stoppers, while others are easily overlooked. A small colony of Enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) has been growing near my home for many years, but I hardly noticed its blossoms until relatively recently. I learned to identify this plant just last fall, thanks to Leland Searles, a walking encyclopedia of Iowa flora.

Sometimes known as Broadleaf enchanter’s nightshade, this plant is native to most of the U.S. and Canada. If you spend time on wooded trails in the summer, you may have passed it many times without noticing. The plants are only one to two feet tall, and their flowers are tiny, one-eighth to one-fourth inch in diameter.

Enchanter’s nightshade thrives in dappled sunlight or shade. The Illinois Wildflowers website notes, “This is one of the woodland wildflowers that blooms during the summer in shaded areas. The flowers of such species are usually small, white, and not very showy.” The same site speculates, “This plant may be less abundant than in the past because of browsing by deer.”

I took most of the pictures enclosed below in Windsor Heights during the first week of July.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Catnip

In the eight years I’ve been writing about wildflowers on this site, my editorial bias has been toward species that belong in this part of North America. However, I do occasionally feature non-native species that have become naturalized in Iowa. So it is with this week’s plant.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) originated in Europe, but this member of the mint family can now be found in nearly every part of the U.S. and Canada. Although it is not highly invasive like garlic mustard, it can thrive in many habitats and may spread rapidly in gardens.

In central Iowa, I’ve mostly seen catnip near trails or woodland edges. I took most of the pictures enclosed below during the past week near the edge of the woods where Clive meets Windsor Heights.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: A walk by the woods at midsummer

If you can stand the heat, early July is an excellent time for wildflower spotting in Iowa. Prairie habitats are exploding in color now, but this week I decided to focus on plants that can often be viewed from the shade at woodland edges.

I took all of the pictures enclosed below between July 1 and July 8 near wooded trails in Windsor Heights, Clive, Urbandale, or West Des Moines.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Wild petunia (Hairy wild petunia)

If you’ve considered introducing native plants to a garden, today’s featured wildflower is for you. Wild petunia (Ruellia humilis) is “quite adaptable, tolerating full or partial sun, moist to dry conditions, and practically any kind of soil,” the Illinois Wildflowers website writes.

Sometimes known as fringeleaf wild petunia, this species is native to much of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, except for New England.

I’ve seen these flowers thriving in several plantings near bike trails or parking lots. I took all of the pictures enclosed below in the main parking area at Brown’s Woods in West Des Moines.

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