Photo of first instar monarch caterpillar

After hatching from an egg, monarch caterpillars live about 10-14 days. (Read about the monarch butterfly life cycle here) However, a lot happens in that time. The larval stage of a monarch is called a caterpillar. When the caterpillar first hatches, it is 2-6 mm long. As it grows, it molts — sheds its skin…

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Photo of black walnut tree

Black walnut trees (Juglans nigra) are probably best known for two things — their seed and their wood. Although not as commonly eaten as an English walnut, what you would find in a grocery store, black walnuts can also be eaten if harvested, processed and stored correctly. They have an especially strong nut flavor that…

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Photo of maple seeds

In the east half of the state, sugar maples reign supreme. Who doesn’t like maple syrup? However, the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is still a wonderful tree found in Dickinson County. They have actually been hybridized with red maples for a pretty, fast-growing tree (Acer freemanii). Size Silver maples grow 75-100 feet tall. It is…

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Photo of American elm

Two kinds of elms can be found statewide in Iowa, the American Elm (Ulmus americana) and the red elm (Ulmus rubra) or the slippery elm. American elm American elms have battled disease, like many types of trees native to Iowa. Dutch elm disease was introduced from Europe in the 1930s and affects young American elms…

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Photo of white pine needles

Iowa has two kinds of native evergreen trees, which stay green year-round due to their rolled-up, waxy leaves that are known as needles. These leaves are resistant to cold and stay moist, keep them green all year long. Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) Red cedars are native to Iowa, but they are often considered a…

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Photo of a green ash in fall

Iowa has several different species of ash trees: Black ash (Fraxinus nigra), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and white ash (Fraxinus americana). However, only one kind is native to the northwest corner of the state — green ash. Black ash is found in the eastern half of Iowa, and white ash is common in the southeastern…

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Photo of basswood tree

It seems like, when people list the trees of Iowa, that many don’t think about, or possibly know about, basswood (Tilia americana). However, basswood is a common tree that occurs statewide and is often interspersed with maples and oaks. Size Basswoods grow 75-100 feet or more, and they grow quickly. If planted at the same…

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Photo of Aldo Leopold

The great plains toads at the Dickinson County Nature Center are named Al and Wally. Photo of Great Plains toad Wally is named after Alfred R. Wallace (read more about him here), and Al is named after Iowa-born conservationist Aldo Leopold. Leopold was born in 1887 in Burlington and spent much of his youth in…

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Photo of cottonwood seeds

If you walk around the Iowa Great Lakes, you’ll see plenty of towering cottonwood trees (Populus deltoides). They live to be 80-100 years old, although they have weak branches that struggle to withstand ice and rain. The heartwood of the trunk tends to rot inside a cottonwood, and sometimes when branches break off, that allows small…

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Photo of bur oak trees

Iowa’s state tree is the oak, although the State Legislature never designated a specific species of oak. The state has 12 species of native oak trees: Pin oak Red oak Shingle oak Northern pin oak Black oak Blackjack oak White oak Bur oak Swamp white oak Chinkapin Post oak Dwarf chinkapin oak Of those, two…

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