Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Violet wood sorrel

The Virginia bluebells are fading fast in my corner of central Iowa, but the pink blossoms of spring beauty are still prevalent, along with Jack-in-the-pulpits and striped white violets. May apples (umbrella plants) are near their peak, and the first blossoms of sweet Cicely and Aunt Lucy are starting to appear. Virginia waterleaf won’t be far behind.

I’ve wanted to write about today’s featured wildflowers since Eileen Miller pointed them out near a trail in Dolliver Memorial State Park three years ago. In 2016 and 2017, I looked in vain for colonies of Violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea) on my spring walks through wooded areas. Fortunately, Marla Mertz and Lora Conrad have generously shared their photographs of this “delicate” plant, with five-petaled flowers that can be lavender or pink or purple. You may be lucky enough to find these blooming in woodlands or moist prairies during the next several weeks. The species is native to most of the U.S. other than a handful of states west of the Rocky Mountains.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Celebrating skunk cabbage

Luther College Associate Professor Beth Lynch educates the Bleeding Heartland community about a rare early spring wildflower. For those who missed it, I highly recommend her post about witch hazel from last October. -promoted by desmoinesdem

One weekend in early April the tourists showed up in town. They were thicker than flies around here. I’ll admit that most of them were here for a new beer release at one of the local breweries, but I also spotted some wild plant tourists tromping around the woods in search of skunk cabbage.

Skunk cabbage is not the first plant to bloom each spring. That award almost always goes to the silver maple trees. And, it is certainly not as cute as the pussy willow buds. So, why are the tourists coming to see skunk cabbage in the mucky swamps around northeastern Iowa?

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday returns: Early spring medley

The seventh year of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflower series is kicking off later than planned. Early spring wildflowers typically would have come and gone in central Iowa by the beginning of May, but an extended cold spell in March and April pushed everything about a month behind schedule.

Follow me after the jump for a sampling of wildflowers you might see during the coming week along Iowa trails or in woodlands. I took all of the enclosed pictures within the past few days near my Windsor Heights home, except for the last photograph, taken last May in Dolliver Memorial State Park (Webster County).

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Recap of Iowa wildflower Wednesdays from 2017

The sixth year of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series was the most rewarding for me. I learned to identify several “new” native plants, captured a few flowers I’d been hoping to feature for years, and showcased more work by guest photographers than ever before.

I enclose below links to all 32 editions of Iowa wildflower Wednesday from 2017, with one picture from each post. Please let me know if you are interested in contributing to this series next year, especially if you have good photographs of species not covered before at this site.

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2017 guest authors

Bleeding Heartland published 140 guest posts by 81 authors in 2016, a record since the blog’s creation in 2007.

I’m happy to report that the bar has been raised: 83 authors contributed 164 guest posts to this website during 2017. Their work covered an incredible range of local, statewide, and national topics.

Some contributors drew on their professional expertise and research, writing in a detached and analytical style. Others produced passionate and intensely personal commentaries, sometimes drawing on painful memories or family history.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Asters from Phil Specht's northeast Iowa farm

For the sixth straight year, I’m wrapping up my weekly wildflower series with asters, which are often among the last native plants blooming around Iowa. This installment is special, though, because Phil Specht shared photographs of asters growing on his property in Clayton County.

Phil has been “running a grass-based, rotationally grazed dairy” for decades. His farm became a “working ecosystem” supporting a phenomenal number of grassland birds, thanks to the diversity of plants and insects. You can learn more about his pasture management practices by listening to this podcast produced by the Land Stewardship Project or Phil’s interview with Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Asters can be notoriously difficult to distinguish from one another. Phil made educated guesses about some of the plants pictured below but would welcome help with the IDs. He believes “most of northeast Iowa’s native species are represented”; “The farm borders the woods and has a little soil that is of prairie origin, so a wide range of habitat.”

Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return during the spring of 2018. The full archive links to photographs of approximately 170 native plant species. That number will hit 200 sometime next year.

Finally, I want to wish the Bleeding Heartland community a happy Thanksgiving and express my gratitude to all who stop by. I’m especially thankful for the photographers who allowed me to publish their work during 2017: Phil Specht, Eileen Miller, Lora Conrad, Wendie Schneider, Beth Lynch, and Katie Byerly.

Now, enjoy some of Clayton County’s lovely asters.

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