# Wildflowers



Iowa wildflower Wednesday: The Croton Unit of Shimek State Forest

Join Lora Conrad for a walk through the Croton Unit of Shimek State Forest to photograph and identify plants growing in this “premier woodland wildflower location.”

“Shimek State Forest is located in Lee and Van Buren counties in southeast Iowa. The forest served as a base for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s and 1940s, where they planted thousands of acres of hardwoods and conifers for demonstration purposes. Named after early Iowa conservationist Dr. Bohumil Shimek, the forest offers bountiful outdoor recreation opportunities… ”

So goes the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ understated introduction to Shimek State Forest which is 9,448 acres spread across five forest units.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday returns: Wild plum

I’m kicking off the eleventh year of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflower series a little later than usual, for two reasons. First, unusually cold weather in March and April delayed many plants’ blooming period by several weeks.

In addition, I severely fractured my ankle in January, requiring surgery, ten non-weight-bearing weeks, and ongoing physical therapy. Although I’m getting around with a cane now, I don’t walk well on uneven ground, which limits my wildflower spotting.

The upshot is that I will probably rely on guest authors and photographers even more than last year. Please let me know if you have pictures to share, especially of plants I haven’t featured yet. (Click here for the full archive, featuring more than 200 species.) Some spring or early summer bloomers which have yet to be introduced to Bleeding Heartland readers include Jacob’s ladder, false Solomon’s seal, and Four o’clock.

I also welcome guest posts showcasing a favorite trail, park, or nature area, with pictures of different plants that may be blooming on a given day or weekend. Restoration success stories like last year’s contributions by Kenny Slocum and Grinnell College students are also well received.

This week’s featured plant is a shrub or small tree. Wild plum (Prunus americana) is native to most of the U.S. and Canada. Also known as American Red Plum, these plants can thrive in a range of habitats, from roadsides to woodlands to open fields or prairies. The Illinois Wildflowers and Minnesota Wildflowers websites have botanically accurate information about various parts of the trees.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Hoar frost

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: I’m interrupting the winter hiatus of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series to bring you some lovely images by a new guest photographer, Paul Laning. He first shared these pictures in the Iowa wildflower enthusiasts Facebook group, which has remained active this winter.

I’ve had professional training in photography and design and been taking pictures since 1978. I take many nature photographs, but hoar frost is one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy my art.

I took the first five pictures with my cell phone near Buffalo Center (Winnebago County). I shot the last with a Canon EOS in Clear Lake.

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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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