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Roadside Prairies in Iowa: Flowers or Weeds?
Growing up in the Midwest I learned to appreciate many different kinds of plants; from the crops of the farmers to the plants growing in the roadside ditches. Most people would call the plants in the ditches weeds – I call them beautiful. They are some of what is left of the vast expanses of plants that covered the prairies. Iowa used to be 85% prairie but today it is only .1%. Prairies consist mostly of grasses but contain some flowering plants called forbs. I am going to take you on a photo journey of some of the flowering plants inhabiting the roadside in my area of the state of Iowa.
Wild Rose: this is the state flower of Iowa. Pink with single petals. They used to be abundant but a little hard to find now. Blooms in June.
Chicory: one of my favorites. Spindly plants but beautiful pale-blue flowers. Blooms from June-October.
Queen Anne’s Lace: another favorite. White, lacey flowers. Usually these and Chicory grow together right along the edge of the road. Blooms June-October.
Black-eyed Susans: Brilliant yellow flowers with black centers. There is also a variety with brown centers called Brown-eyed Susans. Blooms June-October.
Wild Phlox: These come in a variety of colors from pink to deep blue. Blooms April-October.
Butterfly Milkweed: Aptly named as butterflies really like these bright orange flowers. Blooms June-September.
Swamp Milkweed: These pink flowered milkweeds like damp soils. Blooms July & August.
Sunflowers: Pretty yellow flowers. Blooms June-late summer.
Purple Coneflower: Purple drooping petals with a conical center. There is also a variety called Grayhead Coneflower with yellow petals. Blooms June-September.
Wild Bergamot: also called Horsemint or Bee Balm. Interesting pink flowers. Some are lavender colored. Blooms July-September.
Thistle: These plants are not very well liked but the flowers are a pretty purple and look great in masses.
Day Lilies: Not a native plant. The orange variety escaped from cultivated gardens and they are numerous in the ditches now. Blooms June-August.
These are just a few of the hundreds of different species of flowering plants or forbs that make up a prairie. Take time to look at the “weeds” growing in your area. You may be pleasantly surprised by the beauty you find.
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