Tallgrass Prairie Center


Recommended wildflower guides


Many landowners ask us for help identifying the plants in their CRP planting.  Here are some recommendations for learning the plants:

Just getting started-- books with color photos, organized by flower color,  time of flowering, or non-technical characters.  A limited species list from a state or region. 

Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie: The Upper Midwest. Second edition.  Sylvan T Runkel and Dean M. Roosa.  University of Iowa Press.

Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers: a Field Guide. Second edition. Doug Ladd and Frank Oberle. Falcon Press.

Intermediate -- organized by plant family and genus, or a non-technical key. Illustrated with photos or detailed line drawings of flowers, and more options to choose from

Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.  Lawrence Newcomb and Gordon Morrison. Little, Brown. (Eastern US, includes woodland flowers too)

Prairie Plants of the University of Wisconsin - Madison Arboretum.  Theodore S. Cochrane, Kandis Elliot and Claudia Lipke. University of Wisconsin Press.

An Illustrated Guide to Iowa Prairie Plants, by Paul Christiansen and Mark Muller, University of Iowa Press

Grasses, Sedges and Rushes: an Identification Guide by Lauren Brown and Ted Elliman. Yale University Press.


Tallgrass Prairie Center Videos

Botany Beginners: Exploring Iowa's Native Plants (2020) - Six webinars and three virtual field tours show  how to use Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, highlighting common plants in their season of flowering. Native and non-native.  

Grasses for the Masses (2021)- Seven-part webinar series beginning with four lectures on cool-season grasses flowering from mid May through early July. Three lectures on warm-season grasses cover grasses flowering in late August - early September.  


students with wildflower guides

UNI students with Professor Emeritus Daryl Smith, using wildflower guides.  These are designed to be used outdoors.