# Wildflowers

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Bidens

Lora Conrad lives on a small farm in Van Buren County.

Bidens. Whether you call them Bur Marigold or Beggarticks or one of a dozen different common names, they are all Bidens varieties. One year an explosion of many bright yellow flowers but another year, nary a one. That is a characteristic that Bidens cernua and Bidens aristosa have in common…along with making awns with multiple points all the better to grab anything hairy or clothed that walks by.

These are the two Bidens I see the most in Van Buren County. B. aristosa and B. cernua both have lovely bright yellow rays. However, they look different enough to tell them apart on the basis of the flowers alone, as shown in this side by side comparison. (Each is discussed separately below.)

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Full archive: Iowa wildflower Wednesday nature walks

Bleeding Heartland authors have featured about 250 plant species since I launched “Iowa wildflower Wednesday” in 2012. You can find most of those posts in this archive, alphabetized by common name from alumroot to zigzag goldenrod.

But not every post in the wildflower series focuses on one or two kinds of native plants. Many chronicle the author’s visit to a park, prairie, natural area, or wooded trail, where they may have photographed a dozen or more species. When I’ve updated the archive, I haven’t linked to every post that includes one picture of, say, spring beauty or Culver’s root or rattlesnake master.

For this piece, I compiled links to all of the Bleeding Heartland posts that survey a range of plants in a given area, arranged by season. I hope these links will help readers who are wondering which flowers may be blooming at different times of the year, or are trying to identify a plant they saw on their own nature walk. By the way, Lora Conrad reviewed many guides to Iowa wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.

Words can’t convey how grateful I am to guest authors who have showcased corners of Iowa that are unfamiliar to me, from Shimek State Forest (southeast) to Motor Mill (northeast) to the Loess Hills (southwest) and the Little Sioux River valley (northwest).

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Northern Monkshood

Katie Byerly of Cerro Gordo County is also known as Iowa Prairie Girl on YouTube.

I’d like to say that my goal is to see all the wildflowers of Iowa—preferably when they are in bloom. I’m not even sure if that goal is measurable, but I do like to hunt for wildflowers that I haven’t yet seen. I’m still new enough to the wildflower hunting game that I’m am not even aware sometimes of what I should be hunting for.

In 1978, the Northern Monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense) or Northern Wild Monkshood was placed on the federally threatened plant list. I read about monkshood in 2021 on a kiosk at Backbone State Park in Delaware County, Iowa. This kiosk set in motion my three-year quest to find the rare species.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: October stragglers

Most Iowa wildflowers have gone to seed by now. But I’m always intrigued by the plants that keep blooming long after others. So I ventured out on yet another unseasonably warm day to photograph late bloomers in the prairie planting along the Windsor Heights trail, immediately behind the Iowa Department of Natural Resources building on Hickman Road.

I’ve been impressed by how well this patch has been managed over the past decade or so. It’s mostly free from the invasive plants that took over the onetime Eagle Scout project about a quarter-mile away on the Windsor Heights trail (near where Rocklyn Creek runs into North Walnut Creek).

The patch behind the Iowa DNR building is most colorful over the summer, but I enjoy watching the succession of wildflowers blooming, from golden Alexanders in the spring to rosinweed and wild bergamot in the summer to the last of the asters in the fall. There’s plenty of parking near the building, if you can’t access the area on foot or by bicycle. The Windsor Heights trail is paved and flat, for those who struggle with uneven ground.

I took all of the photos enclosed below on October 4.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: The magic of monarch waystations

Kara Grady is a wildflower enthusiast living in eastern Iowa. Her work has been published in the Erythronium newsletter of the Iowa Native Plant Society. When she’s not going on rare flower adventures, she can be found reading the latest botanical books or attending prairie seminars.

Sitting down outside the crystal store in Amana, my eye was drawn to a sign half-hidden across the way. It was not studded with sparkly jewels, or advertised by bright colors, but nevertheless, I was pulled from my seat with curiosity to investigate. And I experienced a surge of joy when I realized what the sign was for: it was telling me of the Monarch Waystation planted right in front of the store, an array of wildflowers I had barely noticed moments before.

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Monarchs on my mind

Bruce Morrison is a working artist and photographer living with his wife Georgeann in rural southeast O’Brien County, Iowa. Bruce works from his studio/gallery–a renovated late 1920s brooding house/sheep barn. You can follow Morrison on his artist blog, Prairie Hill Farm Studio, or visit his website at Morrison’s studio.

Every summer we enjoy the monarch butterflies in our pastures and acreage, from their first arrival to their final departure. And each a different generation!

There are so many amazing mysteries in the natural world, and these iconic butterflies are right at the top of the list.  According to MonarchWatch.org, over the summer there are three or four generations of monarch butterflies, depending on the length of the growing season. Each female lays hundreds of eggs, so the total number of monarch butterflies increases throughout the summer. Before the end of summer, there are millions of monarchs all over the U.S. and southern Canada.

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