# Wildflowers

Book review: The Revolutionary Genius of Plants

How can plants move without muscles? How do their root systems explore the soil? How do they adapt to changes in the environment, and sometimes survive extreme challenges such as fire or drought?

Stefano Mancuso explores those and other questions in The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior. The book isn’t new (first published in 2018), but it was new to me after my brother gave a copy to one of my children.

Although the book doesn’t directly discuss prairie and woodland habitats that have inspired most of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflower content, Mancuso’s provocative theories are relevant to Iowa’s native plants as well.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Edible Valerian

Katie Byerly features yet another native plant I’ve never seen. She has a knack for finding the rare ones! Katie is also known as Iowa Prairie Girl on YouTube.

Is Edible Valerian (Valeriana edulis) edible or not? Valerian is also called Tobacco Root. According to the Montana Plant Life website, some Native Americans cooked the root for two days before eating it. The same site notes, “It has a very strong and peculiar taste that is offensive to some people but agreeable to others.”

Minnesota Wildflowers compares early European accounts of the carrot-like taproot to the usual discussion on lutefisk—meaning you either like it or hate it. I doubt anyone is currently baking valerian root in the ground for days to avoid hunger, but do note that it is poisonous raw.

The only location I have found edible Valerian is in the native prairie in Wilkinson Pioneer Park in Rock Falls (Cerro Gordo County). In north Iowa and at Wilkinson Park, this plant is one of the first taller fluorescence to appear in the spring. While short and almost hidden yellow star and blue-eyed grasses are blooming close to the ground, edible Valerian pop up to one to four feet above early spring prairie flowers.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Spring mix from Johnson County

The combination of a late spring and a busy legislative session delayed the return of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series, but I’m excited to kick off the twelfth year with a lovely collection of photographs.

Johnson County Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass supplied all of the images featured below. She took the pictures in April and May on various Johnson County conservation properties, including the Phebe Timber and Kent Park, as well as in other parts of the county, such as the Clear Creek Trail in Coralville.

I’m presenting the photos in roughly the order one would see these flowers, from the earliest to appear along trails or in wooded areas to those that bloom once spring is well underway.

If you have images to share or would like to write a guest post for the wildflowers series, please reach out to me. I welcome commentaries showcasing one species, especially a plant that hasn’t yet been featured here. But it’s also fun to see pictures of many wildflowers found in one location. Essays about transformations, whether in your back yard or some larger area, are always popular with readers.

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Iowa naturalist B.O. Wolden remembered

B.O. Wolden (1886-1968) was a prolific naturalist, an amateur botanist, and an advocate for conservation. Born to pioneers in rural Emmet county, Olaf witnessed drastic ecological changes during his lifetime as European Americans reshaped the tallgrass prairie bioregion. For nearly forty years, Olaf shared his observations of the natural world in a regular newspaper column called Nature Notes.

The Observer: The Life and Writings of Bernt Olaf Wolden was written by Amie Adams in partnership with the Iowa Master Naturalist Program and Emmet County Conservation. The book contains a biography of B.O. Wolden (written by Adams) and a selection of 100 of Mr. Wolden’s “Nature Notes.” Readers will learn about Iowa’s natural history and this fascinating Iowa naturalist. Copies are available for purchase online and at the Emmet County Nature Center. All proceeds support conservation and nature education in Emmet county.

Please enjoy the following excerpts from the book.

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Recap of Iowa wildflower Wednesdays from 2022

The eleventh year of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series was the most difficult for me by far. A catastrophic ankle fracture early in the year made it hard to get out on the trails and prairies that have provided most of my source material over the years.

I’ve never been more grateful for the guest authors and photographers who helped me keep the series going most weeks. In alphabetical order: Katie Byerly, Lora Conrad, Paul Laning, Bruce Morrison, Diane Porter, Leland Searles, and Kenny Slocum. Thanks also to Kurt Meyer for highlighting monarch and Baltimore checkerspot butterflies, which need native plants to thrive.

This series will return sometime during April or May of 2023. Please reach out if you have photographs to share, especially of native plants I haven’t featured yet. The full archive of nearly 300 posts featuring more than 240 wildflower species is available here.

For those looking for wildflower pictures year round, or seeking help with plant ID, check out the Facebook groups Flora of Iowa or Iowa wildflower enthusiasts. If you’d like a book to take with you on nature outings, Lora Conrad reviewed some of the best wildflower guides last year. A few were co-authored by Sylvan Runkel, whose biography I wholeheartedly recommend. A book featuring plants native to our area is probably more reliable than the plant ID app on your phone.

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The Baltimore checkerspot and the turtlehead

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

It’s human nature to regard your home community as special, distinctive, or unique in one way or another. I’ve always seen my rural community in this light, although some claims to fame are rather small.

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