Thursday, July 7, 2011

Iowa Tallgrass Prairie summer wildflowers

Black Eyed Susan
While Midwestern forests produce an abundance of wildflowers April through May, the Tallgrass Prairies are a lot slower in coming into bloom.  July is the best month to head out for a prairie hike to see an abundance of wildflowers.  Unlike spring forest flowers which are dotted here and their, prairies can produce almost overwhelming numbers of wildflowers at certain times and places.  As for shear numbers and year after year consistency of  flowers I don't know many ecosystems that can match it.  All of the species in this post are perennials and have very deep root systems that can survive fire, grazing, and drought.  In-fact, many if not most Tallgrass Prairie plants thrive with moderate levels of these disturbances.   All of these plants bloom from late June through July.

Prairie Wild Rose, the state flower of Iowa.  Produces a red fruit called a hip that has high vitamin C content.

Common Milkweed found in wetter areas of grasslands.  All portions of the plant are edible when immature and thoroughly boiled.  Mature portions are toxic.

Yarrow, grows in dry areas through out the west.  Has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes including an astringent, healing bruises, aiding healing of colds and flu, as a stimulant, and many many other uses.
Black Eyed Susan, one of the most abundant prairie wildflowers.  State flower of Maryland.  Used as an astringent and treating inflammation.

One of many perennial sunflower species common to the prairie.
Spiderwort, blooms for part on one morning until the petals seem to melt in the afternoon sun.

Thistle, an invasive plant from Eurasia.

Wild Bergamot, has a strong minty fragrance when the leaves are crushed.  It has been used as an antiseptic and tea, among other medicinal uses.  
Hairy Wild Petunia, is in-fact hairy and wild.  Typically found  in very dry locations.
Butterfly Milkweed, found in mesic to dry prairie locations.  The root was used by Native Americans for food.

White Wild Indigo, a very tough poisonous plant.  Can survive grazing and major disturbances such as bull dozing by surviving as a root.  Native Americans used this plant medicinally. 
Pale Purple Cone Flower, an Echinacea sp.  Roots and other portions of plants from the Echinacea sp. are often used to boost immunity.

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