Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Common mullein

Common Mullein, Great Mullein and Woolly Mullein are all names for the same plant, a non-native weed introduced from Europe in the early 1800s. It has spread so widely that it is now considered naturalized. Common mullein can be found in all 50 states, and even though it is a weed, it is not pesty (at least not in Iowa).

Of all the Iowa wildflowers, this plant has some of the most fun nicknames, including Cowboy Toiletpaper, Quaker’s Rouge, Torch Flower, Flannel Plant, Tinder Plant, and Aaron’s Rod.

If you are a wildflower enthusiast, someone not familiar with common mullein may ask you, “What is that tall fuzzy plant that I saw on the side of the road?”

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: American or Canada germander (wood sage)

Although much of Iowa is in drought, one plant that thrives in moist habitats seems to be abundant this year, at least in central Iowa. American germander (Teucrium canadense), also known as Canada germander or wood sage, often grows in “moist thickets, ditches, woodland edges, [or] along streams.” I usually see it blooming by July 4, and the flowering period lasts for at least a month.

According to John Pearson of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Teucrium canadense is the only germander species that is native to Iowa. Eight other species of germander are native to North America, and gardeners may grow some of them successfully in our state.

I took most of the pictures enclosed below near North Walnut Creek, which runs through Urbandale and Windsor Heights.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: American lopseed

A plant I’d never noticed before showed up on my doorstep (literally) this summer. Once flowers began to appear in late June, I posted a few pictures in the Iowa wildflower enthusiasts Facebook group I created last year. A member of that community quickly identified the mystery plant as American lopseed (Phryma leptostachya).

As the name suggests, American lopseed is native to most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. These plants can also be found in California. The Illinois Wildflowers website notes that this species (sometimes known simply as lopseed) “prefers a sheltered location that provides light to medium shade, moist to mesic conditions, and a rich woodland soil with abundant organic matter.”

How did these wildflowers suddenly turn up in an area I have watched closely for 20 years? According to ecological consultant Leland Searles, birds may have carried the seed to my yard, or animals may have tracked it in on their hooves or paws.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: What is that plant, flower, or fruit?

Lora Conrad reviews nine useful resources for plant identification in Iowa.

Whether you are new to learning about Iowa wildflowers and native shrubs and trees or have been studying them as a hobby for some years, you are sure to see a plant or flower that you just can’t identify. Before posting a question for the experts on your local wildflower or flora Facebook page, you might want to see what you can learn about the plant and determine yourself.

Three types of resources are widely available: plant identification applications for a smart phone, public web pages from authoritative sources, and books. Each source can be useful but not always sufficient.

The purpose of this article is to compare the reference books that have helped me most in identifying plants in the woodlands, prairies, waysides, river banks, and roadsides of Iowa, as well as in my untamed yard. These are recommendations from a determined wildflower enthusiast—not from a botanist. So with that caveat, please read on.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Bugs on native plants

Elizabeth Marilla is a mental health worker, writer, picture taker, hiker, and mom living in rural southeast Iowa. Connect with her on instagram @iowa.underfoot. -promoted by Laura Belin

Wildflower love and layperson learning, often nurtured by the wisdom shared on Iowa wildflower Wednesdays, has led to closer looks at lots and lots of plants, and subsequently to my wondering amateurishly at the beings the wildflowers host and nourish–basically bugs I’ve ignored for way too many years!

Many mornings I hike with my daughter. We take pictures, get silly, find mushrooms (and slime molds), stomp around. Her questions are getting much smarter than mine, and if she miraculously naps in the afternoon, I often spend that time learning about flowers and bugs from far smarter folks than I, hoping I will be able to answer her questions when she awakes.

Below are a few things we have wondered about together this spring and summer. If anyone would like to share what they know about these native bug/flower relationships in the comments, add bumble bee IDs, or correct any errors, I very much welcome learning from other enthusiastic Iowans.

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Finding a path for people and wildlife in the Loess Hills

Patrick Swanson takes over this week’s edition of Iowa wildflower Wednesday. -promoted by Laura Belin

Earlier this month marked the first of what I hope to be a more common event in western Iowa: an organized multi-day hike through the Loess Hills. 

Conceived and orchestrated by Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) and other partners, the Lo(ess) Hi(lls) Trek, as it was called, gave about 30 folks the opportunity to walk a route through and between conservation lands in Monona County. Golden Hills RC&D recently posted an excellent day-by-day synopsis of the LoHi Trek, so I won’t recap the details here.

As a participant, I would like to offer some of my reflections on this journey.  

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