The 19 Bleeding Heartland posts that were most fun to write in 2019

Before the new political year kicks off with the Iowa legislature convening and Governor Kim Reynolds laying out her agenda, I need to take care of some unfinished business from 2019.

When I reflect on my work at the end of each year, I like to take stock of not only the most popular posts published on this website and the ones I worked hardest on, but also the projects that brought me the most joy. I’ve found this exercise helps guide my editorial decisions on the many days when I have time to write up only one of several newsworthy stories.

Among the 348 posts I wrote last year, these were some of my favorites:

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2019 guest authors

More than 125 authors contributed to the 290 guest posts Bleeding Heartland published this calendar year–way up from the 202 pieces by about 100 writers in 2018 and the 164 posts by 83 writers the year before that. I’m immensely grateful for all the hard work that went into these articles and commentaries and have linked to them all below.

You will find scoops grounded in original research, such as John Morrissey’s exclusive reporting on Sedgwick landing a lucrative contract to administer Iowa’s worker’s compensation program for state employee, despite not submitting the high bid.

The most-viewed Bleeding Heartland post this year was Gwen Hope’s exclusive about the the Hy-Vee PAC donating $25,000 to the Iowa GOP, shortly before President Donald Trump headlined a Republican fundraiser at Hy-Vee’s event center in West Des Moines.

Several commentaries about major news events or political trends were also among the most widely read Bleeding Heartland posts of 2019. I’ve noted below pieces by Ed Fallon, Tim Nelson, Bruce Lear, Randy Richardson, J.D. Scholten, Dan Guild, State Senator Claire Celsi, and others that were especially popular. (This site has run more than 630 pieces since January 1.)

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Recap of Iowa wildflower Wednesdays from 2019

I had planned this post as a reminder of warmer weather, which I assumed we’d all need in late December. But feels like spring today in central Iowa, with temperatures in the high 50s.

Whether you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, winter solstice, or some other holiday this time of year, my gift to you today is one picture from each of the 31 editions of Iowa wildflower Wednesday published during 2019.

I’m grateful to all who helped me with this project, including those who authored posts (Katie Byerly, Lora Conrad, Patrick Swanson) and those who contributed photographs for one of more of my pieces (in addition to the guest authors: Kim El-Baroudi, Jessica Bolser, Rick Hollis, Andy Kellner, Wendie Schneider, Lorene Shepherd, Don Weiss, and David Wehde).

Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return sometime during the spring of 2020. Please reach out if you have photographs to share, especially of native plants I haven’t featured yet. The full archive of more than 200 posts is available here, alphabetized by the plant’s common name.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Sawtooth sunflower

I’ve wanted to write about Sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus) since the earliest months of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series in 2012. Large colonies thrive at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City. But for one reason or another, I’ve never managed to catch them at the height of their blooming period.

After I visited the refuge in early August, I was determined to get back there a few weeks later to capture the sawtooth sunflowers. Again, life got in the way, and I feared these prairie plants had eluded me again.

The first weekend in October, I called the refuge and spoke with a volunteer, who assured me that some sawtooth sunflowers were still blooming near the main parking lot. I took most of the pictures enclosed below there or near the Highway 163 ramp that leads to the refuge (exit 18).

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Tall coreopsis

Snow and freezing temperatures arrived early in Iowa this year, but I’m not ready to put Bleeding Heartland’s wildflower series to bed for the winter yet.

The bitter cold inspired me to pull out some summertime pictures for this week’s edition. I took all of the photographs enclosed below in the parking lot of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden in late August. Some wonderful prairie plantings are in front of the main building and along the nearby bike trail.

Tall coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris), sometimes known as tall tickseed, is native to most of the U.S. and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user PrairieFan notes in the comments that “tall coreopsis is native to the southern half of Iowa, but not the northern half.”

It can grow in many types of habitats, from disturbed ground to high-quality prairies. The Missouri Botanical Garden’s website advises that tall coreopsis is easy to grow “in dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun,” and “Thrives in poor, sandy or rocky soils with good drainage.”

According to Aaron Harpold, assistant director of horticulture for the botanical garden, the plants I photographed were a cultivar, not grown from seed collected in the wild. For any interested gardeners, the specific type is Coreopsis tripteris ‘Flower Tower.’

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