People who travel the rural Iowa roads are fond of saying about small towns, “Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.” A recent walk in the prairie was a lot like that.
Yellow dominates in terms of flower color, that’s for sure. But a closer look reveals dots of blue and pink. And it’s these smaller, delicate touches that are showing this week. These looked so different from the pictures in my prairie flower books that I sought help from Polk County Master Gardener Eileen Robb with identification. A BIG thanks to her for her rapid and helpful response.
This purple/blue spike is Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum. Pick a leaf and smell it – the scent of licorice is clear. Put the leaf in your mouth and the taste of licorice is unmistakable. It’s clear where this plant got its name.
Another blue spike was not far away, Hoary Vervain, Verbena stricta. This plant only has one flower spike, but I gather from looking at pictures of mature plants that it will have several flower spikes at some point.
And then there is this delicate pink bloom. Showy tick trefoil, Desmodium canadense. The pink color is beautiful against all that yellow, but the flowers are so small it was one I almost missed.
It’s easy to overlook these smaller plants in the masses of larger yellow blooms, but it’s even easier to miss seeing new types of flowers that also happen to be yellow. Luckily, this Oxeye Sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides, bloomed right next to one of my paths. I may never have seen it otherwise.
And finally, there was this colorful specimen. You may have looked twice, as I did, to see that this is a butterfly camouflaged in the colors of a fading Blackeyed Susan.
When I walk in the prairie, I must be sure not to blink!