Soybeans, Corn, and Roses.

Iowa is the center of the vast agricultural foundation of North America. Fertile topsoil six feet thick created by tall prairie grasses recycled for millenium have created farming opportunities that are being exploited to the fullest. On the boundaries of farms and along rivers and banks of lakes in the north grows one of those prairie remnants – the Wild Prarie Rose (Rose pratincola).

The legislature adopted the Prairie Rose as the state flower in 1897 but they didn’t specify which rose species was to be the state favorite so any wild rose growing in Iowa is accepted as the state flower although botantists recognize R. pratincola as the most probable choice due to the fact that it occurs throughout the state and is very attractive. Unlike the Cherokee Rose of Georgia (which emigrated from China) the Wild Prarie Rose is native to the immense valley between the Appalachians and Rocky Mountains. It delights us with numerous shades of pink, can grow as a bush or vine, and has a few thorns but not enough to be a pest. The red hips are Viamin C enhanced and are a favorite of birds and tea drinkers.

Pink is the dominant color but different shades can be found on the same plant as the blossom ages.
Prairie Rose hips are about a half inch long and each contains a dozen seeds.
The sweet scent and ample pollen make the Prairie Rose a natural for native and imported bees.

I have shown many prairie companions in previous posts but one wildflower I have unintentionally ignored is the Coneflower which grows in sunny locations next to the Prairie Rose. Everyone is surely familiar with the Purple Coneflower but how about the Thimble Coneflower or the Mexican Hat Coneflower?

Purple Coneflower is a garden favorite.
The Mexican Hat Coneflower is a great find on the prairies.
The Gumweed is also found on the Iowa prairies and often mistaken for a coneflower or sunflower. This one is from Kentucky.

As we leave Iowa, let’s take a last look at the Wild Prairie Rose and its unique, simple beauty.


Just to the southwest of Iowa lies the unbroken plains of our next alphabetical state – Kansas. Everyone – kids included – recognizes the Kansas State Wildflower!

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