Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Winter wonderland

We interrupt the winter hiatus of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series to bring you Patrick Swanson’s lovely recent pictures of his Harrison County prairie remnant. -promoted by Laura Belin

Saturday night, February 16, brought a nice snowfall to the Omaha/Council Bluffs region. We don’t often get the kind of snow events that make me want to pull out my snowshoes, but as morning broke on Sunday, I decided to throw them in the back of the car and head to the Loess Hills to see what nature provided.

As I introduced in a previous post, I have been working to restore a native prairie remnant. I had considered trying to burn a slash pile from my summer efforts clearing cedars, as I occasionally do in the winter when the weather cooperates. This day, however, the snowplow hadn’t yet cleared one of the roads I use to access the property where I intended to burn. As a result, I had to park and hike in from a different spot.

Because the snow was deeper than I expected, I bailed out on the bonfire idea, and decided instead to take my own “snow day” to trek around on my snowshoes and capture some winter photos of the prairie and woods on the property. I posted some of my pictures to the Iowa Wildflower Report Facebook group, prompting an invitation from Laura Belin to submit a blog post.

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One Man and a Chainsaw: A Journey in Faith and Prairie Restoration

Patrick Swanson has been restoring a prairie remnant in the Loess Hills of western Iowa. This post is a synopsis of the book he recently published about that experience, with pictures of one hillside on his Harrison County land throughout the seasons. – promoted by Laura Belin

Readers of Bleeding Heartland have seen many fine articles and commentary on environmental issues and, most particularly wildflowers, published on this site over the years. One might wonder where passion for nature, natural areas, and their denizens comes from.

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2018 guest authors

The Bleeding Heartland community lost a valued voice this year when Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese passed away in October. As Mike Carberry noted in his obituary for his good friend, Kurt had a tremendous amount on his plate, and I was grateful whenever he found time to share his commentaries in this space. His final post here was a thought-provoking look at his own upbringing and past intimate relationships in light of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Friese was among more than 100 guest authors who produced 202 Bleeding Heartland posts during 2018, shattering the previous record of 164 posts by 83 writers in 2017. I’m thankful for every piece and have linked to them all below.

You will find scoops grounded in original research, commentary about major news events, personal reflections on events from many years ago, and stories in photographs or cartoons. Some posts were short, while others developed an argument over thousands of words. Pieces by Allison Engel, Randy Richardson, Tyler Higgs, and Matt Chapman were among the most-viewed at the site this year. In the full list, I’ve noted other posts that were especially popular.

Please get in touch if you would like to write about any political topic of local, statewide, or national importance during 2019. If you do not already have a Bleeding Heartland account, I can set one up for you and explain the process. There is no standard format or word limit. I copy-edit for clarity but don’t micromanage how authors express themselves. Although most authors write under their real names, pseudonyms are allowed here and may be advisable for those writing about sensitive topics or whose day job does not permit expressing political views. I ask authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest, such as being are a paid staffer, consultant, or lobbyist promoting any candidate or policy they discuss here.

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Recap of Iowa wildflower Wednesdays from 2018

Though the bitter cold and snow have mostly failed to materialize this winter in Iowa, I thought a dose of spring, summer, and fall would be welcome on a short December day. I enclose below links to all 29 editions of Iowa wildflower Wednesday from 2018, with one picture from each post.

During my seventh year chronicling native plants, I made a few new discoveries within a mile or two of my home, and guest authors and photographers provided more material than ever.

Please let me know if you would like to contribute wildflower pictures next year, especially if you have photographs of species not covered before at this site. Plants I hope to feature in 2019 include green dragon, four o’clock, lead plant, sweet coneflower, pale purple coneflower, showy tick trefoil, clasping bellwort/Venus’ looking glass, cardinal flower/red lobelia, Joe Pye weed, false Solomon’s seal, bracted spiderwort, bastard toadflax, Missouri evening primrose, and sawtooth sunflower.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Wahoo

Many thanks to Lora Conrad for wrapping up this year’s wildflower series with an informative piece about a beautiful tree. Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return sometime during the spring of 2019. Happy Thanksgiving to the Bleeding Heartland community! -promoted by desmoinesdem

Driving along a rocky dusty Iowa back road along the banks of the Des Moines River in Van Buren County about eighteen years ago, I spotted the brightest possible pink glowing from a small tree amid the drab, frost-killed brush….. and came to an immediate stop (it’s a very quiet road.) There this rather frail, otherwise naked little tree sat with probably a hundred bright seed pods beginning to burst open. What could it be?

Upon talking with an elderly neighbor native to the area, I learned it was commonly called a Wahoo – a name that is an appropriate expression when one sees its unusual beauty for the first time. However, the word Wahoo probably derives from a Dakota word meaning “arrow-wood.”

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Wild and crazy wild cucumber

Luther College Associate Professor Beth Lynch shares her knowledge and photographs of a native vine related to cultivated squashes, gourds, and cucumbers. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In August I received a phone call from a woman I did not know asking about a plant. It turned out that she was sitting in my friend Phil’s kitchen, having just made the drive from the Twin Cities to Decorah. On the drive, she had seen massive mounds of a flowering vine clinging to trees and shrubs along the roadside and was sure it must be the first wave of an invasion.

In fact, what she and many others noticed this summer was the exuberant growth of the native wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata). This plant is native to eastern North America, but for some reason people seemed to really take note of it this year. It has likely become more common because it is well suited to nutrient-rich, disturbed landscapes created by humans.

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