Plants & Animals

Ninety-seven Loess Hills plant and animal species are of special interest to experts because they are either eastern species on the western edge of their range, western species on the eastern end of their range, or are among the 39 listed by the state of Iowa as endangered, threatened or of special concern.  In fact, this region has one of the largest concentrations of rare species in the state.

The grounds of the center contain a wide variety of plant species, including the following:


American Linden (Basswood) Dogwood Red Elm
Black Cherry Eastern Red Cedar Red Mulberry
Black Walnut Eastern Juniper Red Oak
Bitternut Hickory Green Ash Shagbark Hickory
Bur Oak Hackberry Siberian Elm
Chestnut Honey Locust Willow
Chinkapin Oak Ironwood White Ash
Coffee Tree Prickly Ash White Elm
Cottonwood Red Bud White Poplar


Blackberry Chokecherry Honeysuckle
Black Raspberry Gooseberry Multiflora Rose
Buckbrush Gray Dogwood


Carrion  Flower Poison Ivy Virginia Creeper
Greenbrier Moonseed

With government assistance, a number of timber and prairie improvement projects have been undertaken on the site over the last few years.  Scrub trees have been thinned and more black walnut and red oak planted.  Original prairie grasses have re-sprouted in areas where cedars were removed and where scrub trees were cut at the edge of the timber.  In 2008-2010 all tilled agricultural lands, approximately 20 acres in total, were planted in native Iowa prairie grasses and forbs (flowers). Some of the prairie and timber plants now there include the following:

Forbes/Flowering Plants

Alumroot Ironweed Rose Milkweed
Blackeyed Susan Jack-in-the-Pulpit Rosin Weed
Black Snakeroot Joe Pye Rough Blazing Star
Blue Flag Iris Jumpseed Round-headed Bush Clover
Blue Vervain Large-flowered Beardtongue Rugel’s Plantain
Boneset Lead Plant Sawtooth Sunflower
Bottle Gentian Long-headed Coneflower Scurf Pea
Butterfly Milkweed Maximilian Sunflower Showy Goldenrod
Canada Anemone Meadow Blazing Star Silky Aster
Canadian Milk Vetch Motherwort Sky Blue Aster
Catchweed Bedstraw Mountain Mint Small-flowered Crowfoot
Cinquefoil Milk Vetch Smooth Blue Aster
Compass Plant New England Aster Sneezeweed
Cross Cleavers New Jersey Tea Solomon’s Seal
Culvers Root Orange Daylily Spiderwort
Dotted Blazing Star Nodding Bur Marigold Stiff Goldenrod
Downy Blue Violet Pale Purple Coneflower Stinging Nettle
Downy Gentian Panicled Aster Tansy Mustard
Downy Yellow Violet Partridge Pea Thimble Weed
Dutchmen’s Breeches Pasque Flower Timber Phlox
Early Sunflower Pennycress Water Pod
Evening Primrose Pokeweed Wild Bergamot
False Boneset Prairie Blazing Star Wild Garlic
False Dragonhead Prairie Cinquefoil Wild White Indigo
Fawn Lily Prairie Coreopsis Winged Loostrife
Figwort Prairie Larkspur Wingstem
Garlic Mustard Prairie Phlox White Avens
Golden Alexanders Prairie Sage White Prairie Clover
Goldenrod Prairie Spiderwort White Vervain
Great Blue Lobelia Prairie Violet Whorled Milkweed
Grey-headed Coneflower Prairie Wild Rose Wood Betony
Hoary Vervain Purple Meadow Rue Wood Nettle
Illinois Bundle Flower Purple Prairie Clover Velvetleaf
Indian Plantain Rattlesnake Master Yucca


Big Bluestem Hard Stem Bulrush Rice Cut Grass
Blue Grama Indian Grass Rough Dropseed
Brome Grass June Grass Sand Dropseed
Buffalo Grass Kentucky Blue Grass Scribner’s Panic Grass
Canada Wild Rye Little Bluestem Sideoats Grama
Cheat Grass Muhlenbergia Switch Grass
Dwarf Grama Porcupine Grass Virginia Wild Rye
Fowl Manna Grass Prairie Dropseed Western Wheatgrass
Foxtail Prairie Cordgrass Wool Grass
Hairy Wild Rye Purple Top


Aggregate or Heavy Sedge Hitchcock’s Sedge Stellate Sedge
Blunt Scaled Oak Sedge Hop Sedge Upright Sedge
Few-fruited Sedge Long-beaked Sedge Woodland Sedge
Fox Sedge Owl-Fruited Sedge


Fragile Fern Rattlesnake Fern Maidenhair Fern


Scouring Rush
(Horsetail Plant)
Torrey’s Rush

The Loess Hills host a large variety of birds and animals.  White-tailed deer, raccoons, cottontail rabbits, striped skunk, and fox squirrels are commonly seen on the center grounds. Large turkey vultures are often observed overhead riding the thermal air currents. Bob cats have been spotted there and a mountain lion was reportedly seen nearby.  Coyote, woodchuck, North American badger, and red fox are also in the territory. Seven wild Eurasian boars, an invasive species and apparently the descendents of escapees from a wild game reserve some years ago, have been caught on the property, one weighing 300 pounds.  A herd of four-horned feral goats also have been spotted on a few occasions.  Some of the birds spotted at the site include the following:

American Goldfinch Great Crested Flycatcher Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Baltimore Oriole House Wren Rough-winged Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee Indigo Bunting Scarlet Tanager
Blackpoll Warbler Northern Cardinal Tufted Titmouse
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Northern Parula Turkey
Brown-headed Cowbird Ovenbird Turkey Vulture
Chipping Sparrow Red-bellied Woodpecker White-breasted Nuthatch
Eastern Towhee Red-eyed Vireo Whip-Poor-Will