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Wild for Wildflowers

It's wildflower season - get out and explore. Early spring wildflowers are commonly called ephemerals, which means “short-lived.” Their dazzling show of spring color is only a limited engagement, so take time to see the flowers before they are gone.

 

Report Date Area Description of Woodland Wildflower Blooms
4/16/2024 Northern Iowa

Spring beauty and false rue anemoe are in full bloom in George Wyth State Park. A few Virginia bluebells are blooming, most still with buds. Blue and yellow violets are just starting to bloom. Trout lilies have emerged with a single white one blooming. Buttercups have emerged. Hepatica foliage is emerging, but no buds.

Dutchman’s breeches are blooming everywhere at South Riverside Trail Waterloo/Cedar Falls. Find false rue anemone, Virginia bluebells, creeping buttercup, white phlox, blue phlox, bloodroot and trout lilies.

4/15/2024 Central Iowa

Hepatica, spring beauty and anemone are blooming. Bluebells are blooming in wet forests. Dutchman's breeches, sweet William, and bloodroot are starting to bloom.

Snow trillium, spring beauties, bloodroot, Dutchman breeches ,common blue violet, white trout lilies and ramps are flowering at Hagge Park in Sac County. Find Virginia waterleaf along trails, but no foliage yet. Blue phlox is blooming in Guthrie County. Bloodroot leaves are just starting to pop out. Wild ginger, woodland phlox, toothwort, rue anemone and bellwort are blooming in Jackson County.

4/16/2024 Southern Iowa

Red buds and wild plum are blooming in Lucas County. Forests are exploding with buttercup, blue phlox, cut-leaved toothwort, Dutchman's breeches, bloodroot, trout lily, violetd, Virginia bluebells, rue anemone and spring beauty.

Spring beauty, toothwort, Dutchmen’s breeches, rue anemone, hepatica, violets, woodland phlox, wild ginger, trout lily, buttercup, gooseberry, bluebells, and bellwort are blooming in Appanoose County. Still a few blood root blooming, most are done blooming. Leaves of Virginia waterleaf, wild licorice, mayapple, raspberry, cat mint, and wild geranium.

Violets are coming on strong at Geode State Park with downey yellow violet, common blue violet and its almost all white variety. Woodland blue phlox, Jacob’s ladder and large-flowered bellwort are easy to find. Virginia bluebells in the flat valleys are in full bloom. Mayapples are spreading their canopy of leaves and budding. Rue anemone is starting to appear. Look close to the ground for the small, white flowers of spreading chervil mixed in with its fern-like leaves.

4/15/2024 Western Iowa

Ramps, columbine, Dutchmen’s breeches and Virginia waterleaf have emerged in Sioux County. Blood root is blooming in some places, emerging in others. Bloodroot is blooming in Oak Grove Park. Bloodroot and Dutchman’s breeches are in full bloom at Prep Canyon State Park. Woodland phlox and wild plum are also blooming. Virginia waterleaf has emerged, but is not yet in bloom.

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Spring is Blooming

Wildflowers are enticing treasures for wilderness lovers each year. One of the most encouraging signs of spring, the first wildflowers seem to bloom overnight.

Early spring wildflowers are commonly called ephemerals, which means “short-lived.” Their dazzling show of spring color is only a limited engagement, so take time to see the flowers before they are gone.

Wildflowers can be found by simply walking, or biking along trails, on a hike through a local or Iowa state park or just driving slowly along a county road. It's illegal to pick wildflowers in public conservation areas, so hunt only with your camera or sketch your finds.

Which wildflowers will you discover this spring?

Spotting secretive wildflowers is a refreshing, unique spring activity for the whole family. Get outside this spring and see what you can find. Please take only pictures and leave the flowers for others to enjoy!

Look for these common Iowa spring wildflowers.

Tick Talk

More than a dozen tick species are found in Iowa, but three are most common - blacklegged (aka deer tick), dog tick (aka wood tick) and the lone star tick. Ticks are active March through November. 

Prevention is best:

  • wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into socks
  • light colored clothes make finding ticks easier.
  • use repellent containing DEET
  • add permethrin repellents on clothing per label
  • Check for ticks afield and at home.

If you find yourself outdoors without tweezers and need to remove a tick, use fine weight fishing line, thread or floss tied into a simple overhand knot. Gently tighten the knot around the head of the tick. Slowly pull the ends of the line to tighten the knot and pull out the tick.

Get outdoors with your camera!

Spring colors are popping across Iowa. Here's some easy wildflower photography tips:

  • Avoid full, direct sunlight which can wash out colors. Early and late times of day yields dramatic side lighting.

  • Overcast days are best with soft and even light that contrasts nicely against saturated or delicate wildflower colors.

  • Moisture can help give photos interest. Shoot during light mist, or after a light rain. Droplets on leaves and flowers add interest.

  • Get down low for better flower photos. People are used to standing eye-level views. For more dramatic photos, change the perspective and get down to flower level. Wear old clothes or bring something to lay on to get down on a knee or your belly to create more interesting images taken from a ground-perspective.

Make a Nature Journal

A nature journal is great for sketching the wildflowers you see. It’s also a fun way to record your outdoor adventures anytime you are out exploring - your backyard, a park or preserve. Look, listen, feel and have fun in nature!


Nature Journal Supplies & Instructions

Attend a Local Event

The Iowa DNR, county conservation boards and city park and recreation departments often offer wildflower hikes. Check their webpages for a calendar of events.

DNR Event Calendar

Wildflower Guides

  • Wildflowers of Iowa Woodlands by Sylvan Runkel and Alvin Bull
  • Iowa Trees & Wildflowers: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Plants by James Kavanagh
  • Wildflowers of the Midwest: Your Way to Easily Identify Wildflowers by Stan Tekiela
  • A Peterson Field Guide To Wildflowers: Northeastern and North-central North America by Margaret McKenny and Roger Tory Peterson
  • Wildflowers of the Midwest: A Field Guide to Over 600 Wildflowers in the Region by Don Kurz
  • Wildflowers of Southeastern Iowa -Volume 1 Spring by Don Weiss

Did You Know?

Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators rely on wildflowers for nectar and pollen. Their blooms are essential for the survival of numerous species. Wildflowers help ecosystems thrive! Wild columbine and Virginia bluebills are predominately pollinated by bees.

Support Iowa’s native bumble bees by volunteering for the Iowa Bumble Bee Atlas, part of a regional community science project where volunteers help track and conserve native bumble bees. The Iowa Bumble Bee Atlas is a collaborative effort by the Xerces Society for Invertebrates Conservation, Iowa DNR and Iowa State University.