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11 Types of Wildflowers in Iowa (Pictures)

Iowa, often called the “Hawkeye State,” is famous for its wide fields of colorful wildflowers, creating a beautiful landscape reminiscent of a painting. With over 1,400 species of native plants, including more than 60 types of wildflowers in the tallgrass prairies alone, Iowa offers a diverse range of natural beauty.

From the vibrant blooms of purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans in the prairies to the captivating trilliums and Virginia bluebells in the forests, Iowa’s wildflowers thrive in various habitats, supporting biodiversity and providing habitats for pollinators.

Preserving its natural treasures, Iowa has designated protected areas and nature reserves, making it a haven for flora and fauna. Whether you explore the expansive prairies or venture into the enchanting forests and marshes, Iowa’s wildflowers offer a captivating sight and showcase the state’s commitment to its natural landscapes.

This article will explore some of Iowa’s wildflowers and share their distinct features to assist you in identifying them. 

11 Wildflowers in Iowa

The Wild Rose, which has historical as well as symbolic value for the state of Iowa, has been designated as the official flower of Iowa. The environment in Iowa is enhanced with a touch of natural beauty because of the presence of wild roses, which normally bloom from June to late summer and display a range of pink shades. 

In addition to the stunning Wild Rose, Iowa is home to many other beautiful flowers that bloom throughout the state. From cheerful coneflowers to vibrant violets, Iowa’s diverse flora offers an abundance of floral treasures to enjoy.

1. Wild blue phlox

Wild blue phlox
Wild blue phlox | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Phlox divaricata
  • Zone: 3 – 8 
  • Where to see: Lower western region
  • Season: Mid Summer

The Wild blue phlox, also called wild sweet william, grows naturally in forests and fields in Iowa and other parts of eastern North America. It’s a semi-evergreen perennial with hairy, unstalked leaves and fragrant flowers that bloom in mid-summer.

You’ll often see this plant’s flowers having five petals fused at the base and come in various pastel colors. Butterflies, moths, skippers, and long-tongued bees are the main pollinators of wild blue phlox because their tongues are long enough to reach the flower’s nectar. 

2. Common blue violet

Common blue violet
Common blue violet | image by Emma Helman via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Viola sororia 
  • Zone: 3-10
  • Where to see: Scattered throughout the western region
  • Season: Mid Spring

The Common blue violet, is one of the popular wildflowers you can find in Iowa. The flower petals are mostly blue with white centers, but some have white petals with blue centers. Additionally, you could observe that the nectar of the blooms has a few small hairs nearby that serve to shield it from rain and promote insect pollination.

Flowers bloom from mid to late spring and continue for about one and a half months. During summer, self-pollinating flowers without petals disperse seeds through mechanical ejection. 

3. Jack in the pulpit

Jack-in-the-pulpit | image by Danielle Brigida via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Arisaema triphyllum
  • Zone: 4-9
  • Where to see: Scattered throughout the state
  • Season: Early Summer

The Jack-in-the-pulpit is a species of flowering plant that undergoes a sex-change lifecycle, transitioning from male to female flowers as it matures. The fruits are green berries that become red when ripe and carry seeds that sprout the following spring. You should also be aware that the plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, making it unsafe if consumed raw. 

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4. Violet wood sorrel

Violet wood sorrel
Violet wood sorrel | image by Frank Mayfield via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Oxalis violacea
  • Zone: 5-9
  • Where to see: Scattered throughout the western region
  • Season: Mid Spring

One of the perennial herbs you may see in the state is the violet wood sorrel which grows from an underground bulb and produces clusters of lavender to white flowers with heart-shaped leaflets. You can find the plant in rocky or open woods, fields, prairies, and along rights-of-way. 

Violet wood sorrel has both medicinal and culinary purposes, with all portions of the plant edible, but due to its high oxalic acid concentration, it should be consumed in moderation. 

5. Canada goldenrod

Canada goldenrod flower
Canada goldenrod flower | image by hedera.baltica via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Solidago canadensis
  • Zone: 3-9
  • Where to see: Scattered throughout the lower part of the state
  • Season: Summer

This Iowa wildflower is a clump-forming, rhizomatous perennial with lance-shaped, toothed leaves that grow in a rosette at the base and then along the stem. You can observe this plant producing golden-yellow flowers in dense, pyramid-shaped clusters. Afterward, it disperses single-seeded fruits by wind. 

6. Prairie violet

Prairie violet
Prairie violet | image by Jay Sturner via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Viola pedatifida 
  • Zone: 3-8
  • Where to see: Western region of the state
  • Season: Mid Spring

The Prairie violet is a plant that grows in the state and has golden-yellow flowers with blue-violet or mild blue-violet petals. The plant blooms from mid- to late spring and can possibly bloom in the fall.

You may notice that this plant favors grasslands and other sunny settings with full light and mesic conditions. It’s also frequented by various insects, including bees and several butterfly species. 

7. Pinnate prairie coneflower

Pinnate prairie coneflower
Pinnate prairie coneflower | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Ratibida pinnata
  • Zone: 3-7
  • Where to see: Scattered throughout the state
  • Season: Late Spring

The yellow coneflower or pinnate prairie coneflower is a tall flowering plant that can grow over one meter in height. You may commonly find them in prairies, woodland margins, and roadsides, thriving in both moist and dry habitats. This plant is hardy and attracts butterflies and birds, which makes it a popular choice for ornamental gardens.

8. Dutchman’s breeches

Dutchman’s breeches flower
Dutchman’s breeches flower | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Dicentra cucullaria
  • Zone: 3-8
  • Where to see: Scattered throughout the western regions of the state
  • Season: Early Spring

The Dutchman’s breeches is a perennial herbaceous plant found in Iowa. It grows in rich woods of eastern North America, and in early spring, they produce white flowers that usually lack fragrance. After pollination, slender pods form and break open to produce kidney-shaped seeds, which draw ants for seed distribution. 

9. Canadian anemone

Canadian anemone
Canadian anemone | image by Superior National Forest via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Anemone canadensis
  • Zone: 3-6
  • Where to see: Western parts of the state
  • Season: Spring

One of the wildflowers you might come across is the Canada anemone, which spreads quickly through underground rhizomes and grows in damp meadows, thickets, streambanks, and lakeshores. The plant blooms from late spring to summer, producing white flowers with petal-like sepals and yellow stamens.

Indigenous peoples historically used this plant for medicinal purposes, and it’s appreciated for its beautiful white flowers. 

10. White fawnlily

White fawnlily
White fawnlily | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Erythronium albidum
  • Zone: 4-8
  • Where to see: Western parts of the state
  • Season: Spring

The white fawnlily, also known as the white trout lily, is a small plant that grows in the state and spreads out to form huge colonies. It has a pretty white flower that looks like a lily, with six white petals and yellow stamens.

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You may see it thriving in moist, shady places with sandy soil, and it has been used as medicine in the past. This beautiful wildflower is also valued for its beauty and cultural importance.

11. Swamp milkweed

Swamp milkweed
Swamp milkweed | image by Ed Ogle via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Asclepias incarnata
  • Zone: 3-6
  • Where to see: Western parts of the state
  • Season: Fall

The Swamp milkweed grows well in wet soils, and people often grow it in gardens because its flowers are pretty and attract butterflies and other pollinators. This type of milkweed produces fragrant pink to mauve flowers in rounded clusters and has lance-shaped leaves. After blooming, it forms long follicles that split open to release seeds attached to silky hairs for wind dispersal. 

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About Louise Robles

Louise writes about a wide variety of topics including wildlife, animals, and nature. She's developed a growing interest in animal biology and categorization due to her fascination with how they interact with one another and with their surroundings.