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Wild flowers quietly do their spring duties

April 24, 2010
By Garry Brandenburg

It is amazing, refreshing and a sure sign of the spring season when woodland and prairie wildflowers do their thing. And their 'thing' is to grow, attract insects for pollination purposes thus ensuring that new flowers will be waiting to complete the cycle next year. The fact that wildflowers look pretty to us, smell pretty and are the endless source of subjects for photographers is entirely irrelevant to the flower. They carry on the work of life in the plant world year after year.

Plants of all types have roots, which under a dissecting microscope, are amazing structures to take in water and minerals. Roots use and recycle nutrients from the soil and the air. Leaves are the manufacturing centers for sugar based plant foods. Back in the dark soil, roots systems hold the soil together and prevent or slow erosion. Part of the oxygen we must have is produced by a huge complex of plants that produce this essential gas. They use carbon dioxide to assist in the photosynthesis process to produce the foods the plant needs. We get the air, fresh air, sweet smelling air that anyone hiking through a forest can welcome.

I was again reminded of the awesome beauty of Iowa's woodlands during my ventures to the forests during my bowhunting forays for eastern wild turkey. Wildflowers are abundant in the forest and along forest edges. They greet me as I quietly trek about the woodlands. It isn't wild flowers that I'm specifically there to see, however, they are pretty. I appreciate that. It is a big bonus to see spring life returned after a long cold winter.

Article Photos

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) spreads an awesome carpet of delicate flowers and natural perfumes over portions of Iowa’s woodlands every April. A low plant with loose clusters of pink and white flowers, each petal is striped with dark pink lines. Blooms appear from late March to May in moist woodlands in the eastern half of the U.S. and from southern Ontario to Nova Scotia. Part of what makes this little flower spectacular is the large areas of soil that are covered by thousands of flowers. Tiny underground tubers, similar to a small potato, are the source of growth each year for Spring Beauty. Native Americans and early colonists used the tubers as food. Today’s photo was made at Timmons Grove County Park.

Regarding wild turkeys, as of now the score is Garry - zero, turkeys - 100. The one hundred, as in 100 percent, is the evasion factor that this biggest of game birds has been able to use to live another day. I keep trying to be in the right place at the right time. Close may not be close enough for me and my waiting archery equipment. So it goes. No complaints. That is hunting.

Statewide, spring turkey hunters have taken over 6,000 birds to date. More birds will be added to the ledger by season end on May 16. This is easily within the capability of the species to replace itself. Only Tom turkeys are legal in the spring. Most have mated and passed on their genes to the eggs of the hens that will soon be on nests. Tom turkeys provide no parental care to the chicks after hatching. Incubation begins after the last egg is laid and will run for the next 26 to 28 days. A new crop of turkeys will in turn venture forth to eat bugs, worms, small snakes, lizards and various plant materials to perpetuate the species.

Turkeys do what they do best, move and act according to ages old instincts that are hard-wired into their little brains. This entails finding food, evading ground predators, mating and nesting, finding night roosts in tall trees and generally performing disappearing acts that put professional magicians to shame. When turkeys walk away and disappear into a maze of forest wildflowers, I smile again at nature's awesome spring beauty of little pink flowers and a big bird, the turkey. It is a great time to be outdoors.


SPRING themes will be the focus of a series of short slide shows at the next Central Iowa Ornithologists (Bird Club) meeting at 7 p.m. on April 29 at the Fisher Community Center. Local bird clubbers and photographers will share images of birds, mushrooms, wildflowers and other great themes of spring in the northern latitudes. You are invited to join us and see what nature has to offer for those willing to 'take a hike' into the great outdoors.


Website browsers can get updates on the BALD EAGLE nest near Decorah. The live web camera runs 24 hours a day. If you have access to a computer, check out The chicks have hatched and are getting daily multiple feedings of fish, rabbits or small birds.


When you register your car or truck, do consider one of five choices available that feature natural resources. It costs only a bit more to get these special plates. The money goes toward the 21 year old REAP program, which stands for Resource Enhancement and Protection. Funds are used by the state, county conservation boards and cities to provide supplemental funds for projects. Natural resource license plate choices are the Goldfinch on an Iowa Wild Rose, a Ringneck Pheasant, the Bald Eagle and the newest two, a Whitetail Deer or a Brook Trout. These license plates have provided about $12 million during the past 14 years. The two new plate options are anticipated to eventually grow the sales by another $1 million per year. It is another great way to support the great outdoors in Iowa. Thank you for your support.


A reminder of the Wildflower Walk at Grammer Grove County Park on Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bring your lunch and join MCCB naturalist Diane Pixler and the Brown Bag Bunch for a leisurely walk to view and identify the wildflowers now in bloom.

Registration opens on May 3 for two popular summer MCCB programs for kids. NATURE FRIENDS, for children ages 3 to 6 and an adult, will be held on June 10, 15 and 17 from 9 to 10 a.m. The program is held at various county parks and is a time for parents, grandparents or guardians to engage in fun nature activities with their preschooler that can continue at home. The cost is $8 per child and pre-registration and payment is due by May 28.


UNCLE IKE DAY CAMP, for students who have completed grades first through fifth, will be held June 30 through July 2 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Izaak Walton League grounds. Put on your hiking shoes and join the "Trash to Treasure Adventure" through the recycling process, go on a scavenger hunt, visit the landfill, and have fun turning trash into all kinds of treasures. The cost is $15 per child and pre-registration and payment are due by May 28.


"Like the eagle, once we have learned to soar it almost seems effortless." -Anonymous


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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