Lora Conrad

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Coralberry

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

Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) is a deciduous shrub that is native to the Eastern U.S. and much of the Midwest, including Iowa. Its common name describes its fruit or drupe. Other names used for it include Buckbrush and Indian Currant. It is a member of the Honeysuckle plant family. It is more common in southern Iowa, as shown on this map from the Biota of North America Program (BONAP).

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Allium canadense (Wild onion or Wild garlic)

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

Allium canadense is known by many common names: wild garlic, meadow garlic, wild onion, Canadian onion.

Whatever name you use, this wild Allium is the one you are most likely to find in Iowa. It is not a ramp and not a nodding onion. Several other wild Alliums are native to Iowa (including Allium stellatum, which is also called wild onion), but those are not very common.

This map from the Biota of North America Program (BONAP) shows the native range of Allium canadense in Iowa.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Fragile fern

Lora Conrad profiles a delicate native plant that is often overlooked.

Cystopteris protrusa (formerly C. fragilis var. protrusa) is variously called Southern Fragile Fern, Creeping Fragile Fern, Lowland Brittle Fern, and Southern Bladder Fern, as well as just Fragile Fern which we will use here. It is a relatively easy fern to identify as it grows in early spring and grows in soil, not on rock ledges.

Once you have seen the structure of the frond, you are likely to recognize it in the future. It is found in oak and hickory woodlands, both high quality natural habitat and significantly degraded woodlands. It is widely distributed in Iowa as documented by this BONAP (Biota of North America Program) map dated 2014.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Great Waterleaf

Lora Conrad features a native perennial at different stages of development.

Great Waterleaf aka Appendaged Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum) is one of only two native Hydrophyllum species in Iowa. The other is Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum), which Bleeding Heartland featured here.

Great Waterleaf is a native perennial that thrives in partial shade in rich woodlands. Most photos enclosed below were made on a north facing slope of wooded land just above the Des Moines River in Van Buren County. Others were made in a similar site in Lee County. According to BONAP, it is found more in the eastern two-thirds of Iowa.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: The Croton Unit of Shimek State Forest

Join Lora Conrad for a walk through the Croton Unit of Shimek State Forest to photograph and identify plants growing in this “premier woodland wildflower location.”

“Shimek State Forest is located in Lee and Van Buren counties in southeast Iowa. The forest served as a base for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s and 1940s, where they planted thousands of acres of hardwoods and conifers for demonstration purposes. Named after early Iowa conservationist Dr. Bohumil Shimek, the forest offers bountiful outdoor recreation opportunities… ”

So goes the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ understated introduction to Shimek State Forest which is 9,448 acres spread across five forest units.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: American Burnweed

Lora Conrad profiles a weedy native plant that favors disturbed ground.

Known variously as American Burnweed or Fireweed or Pilewort, Erechtites hieraciifolius (Senecio hieraciifolius is an earlier synonym) is found throughout Iowa as well as states east of Iowa. The names burnweed and fireweed result from its penchant for occurring in recently burned areas.

Why the other common name? Well, some indigenous peoples extracted oil from the plant and used it to treat piles, also known as hemorrhoids, thus the moniker pilewort.

It is a native summer annual in much of the U.S., as well as Central and South America. With its penchant for disturbed soil, you may see it sprinkled about or exploding in great numbers in recently disturbed soils, replanted prairies, roadsides, open woods, and renovated wetlands. It follows human habitation and disturbance of the soil. While considered “weedy,” it is not invasive. It tends to fade away as new plantings get more established. Despite its obvious appreciation for replanted prairies and native status, it is not listed in the UI “Iowa Prairie Plants” online.

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