Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Royal catchfly

Today’s featured flower doesn’t exactly belong in Iowa. But unlike most of the non-natives Bleeding Heartland has profiled for this series, it isn’t a European transplant. Although royal catchfly (Silene regia) is native to states south and east of us, it became popular in prairie plantings or restorations here because of its brilliant color. You are are unlikely to overlook these bright red, star-shaped flowers or confuse them with anything else blooming on an Iowa landscape during the summer.

Over the years, I’ve tried and mostly failed to take good pictures of red or deep pink flowers. The petals often come out looking flat, like a Matisse painting. I’ve learned that this is a common problem for amateur photographers. Fortunately, several wildflower enthusiasts stepped up to share their images of royal catchfly from different parts of the state.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Nature recovers from a flood

The trails through Windsor Heights and western Des Moines have provided source material for dozens of Iowa wildflower Wednesday posts since 2012. Instead of featuring one species this week, I want to highlight how quickly some of my favorite wildflower-spotting grounds rebounded after North Walnut Creek and Walnut Creek flooded early this summer.

I took most of the enclosed pictures on either August 4 or August 18, about five to seven weeks after these areas had been underwater for several days.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Cutleaf coneflower (Green-headed coneflower)

Late summer in Iowa is peak time for tall plants with large, yellow flowerheads, including Jerusalem artichoke, Maximilian sunflower, prairie sunflower, common sunflower, cup plant, compass plant, wingstem, and today’s featured plant. Cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) is native to most of the U.S. and Canada. Sometimes called green-headed coneflower, tall coneflower, or golden glow, this member of the aster family thrives in wet habitats such as “bottomland forests, moist meadows in wooded areas, woodland borders, moist thickets, sloughs in partially shaded areas, low areas along rivers, partially shaded river banks, calcareous seeps, margins of poorly drained fields, and pastures.”

I took most of the enclosed photos near bike trails that run along Walnut Creek in Des Moines or North Walnut Creek in Windsor Heights.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Monkey flower

Monkey flower was a new discovery for me last summer, even though it’s not a rare plant. According to an article in UConn Today, “The so-called Monkey Flowers in the genus Mimulus got their name because their flowers have a mouth-like shape, and to some they resemble the face of a monkey. They are actually a diverse group of some 150 species worldwide, with about 80 of those species native to California.”

The only plant in this group that is prevalent in Iowa is Mimulus ringens. Sometimes known as Allegheny monkey flower or blue monkey flower, this species is native to most of the U.S. and Canada.

The Illinois Wildflowers website notes that Mimulus ringens thrives in “floodplain and bottomland forests (particularly in partially sunny areas), swamps, seeps, muddy borders of small streams or ponds, drainage ditches, prairie swales, and wet meadows. It typically occurs in areas that are prone to occasional flooding or standing water.” That observation is consistent with my experience. Both prairie plantings where I have found monkey flower in Windsor Heights (in Colby Park and behind the Iowa Department of Natural Resources building on Hickman Road) flooded this summer.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Hedge bindweed

UPDATE/CORRECTION: Bleeding Heartland user PrairieFan speculated that I photographed the native vine Hedge bindweed, (Convolvulus sepium or Calystegia sepium). John Pearson of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources confirms: “The key character between the two species is the size of the bracts at the base of the flower: small in C. arvensis versus large (leaf-like) in C. sepium. The photos in your article that provide a profile view of the flowers show large, leaf-like bracts that would point to C. sepium.” Hedge bindweed is also found across North America. Original post follows:

I haven’t featured many vines in this series, other than bittersweet nightshade, bur cucumber, and wild grape. I’ve also rarely focused on non-native plants, with exceptions noted in the archive. So this week is doubly unusual.

Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) originated in Eurasia but has spread to nearly every part of the U.S. and Canada. Don’t go looking for this plant in high-quality habitats; according to the Illinois Wildflowers site, field bindweed “occurs primarily in disturbed areas” such as “lawns, gardens, fields, clay banks, areas along roadsides and railroads (including ballast), vacant lots, and miscellaneous waste areas.” You probably won’t want to cultivate it, but it may find its way onto your property.

It has considerable drought tolerance, and flourishes in poor soil that contains sand, gravel, or hardpan clay. […] Eradication of this plant is difficult, as mechanical cultivation often spreads the rhizomes around, producing new plants. Because of the deep root system, it has been known to survive bulldozer operations. It can also persist in lawns, notwithstanding regular lawn-mowing. The application of broadleaf herbicides can be an effective control measure, if it is repeated as needed.

I took all of the pictures enclosed below last month along the Windsor Heights or Walnut Creek bike trails.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Obedient plant (False dragonhead)

Every year I learn to identify new wildflowers, and this week’s featured plant is a recent “discovery.” Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) is a member of the mint family that is native to most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. Its pink, lavender, purple, or white flowers open in the late summer or early fall. Most of the images enclosed below were taken during the month of August.

The Minnesota Wildflowers website explains, “Obedient Plant gets its common name from the fact the individual flowers can be repositioned and will continue to grow that way.” Another common name for this species is false dragonhead, “on account of the fancied resemblance to a European plant by that name,” according to the Illinois Wildflowers site.

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