Mulberry Bend Trail Common Plants

Common Woodland Plants

Bur Oak with large green lobed leaves.
Bur Oak

Wind Cave NPS Photo

Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Also called “mossycup” due to the fringed cap. It is our dominant hardwood tree along MNRR. It is fire-tolerant, long-lived, and its nuts provide food for many species of wildlife. Look for it all along the trails.

Kentucky Coffeetree with pods and leaves hanging from its branches.
Kentucky Coffeetree

Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus)

Pioneers steeped the seeds of this unusual tree to make a coffee substitute. Look for it in low moist ravines at the bottom of the trail.
A thin green stem stretches out from the left edge of the image. After a couple inches, it curves downwards into the base of the flower. Red spurs grow back down the stem while the red-orange petals stretch downward. Green stamens grow downwards.


Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Beautiful but uncommon, its showy flowers rise above clover-shaped foliage in late spring. Watch for it in shady oak understory.

Leaves of an Ironwood tree.

Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana)

Small and graceful, this understory tree has fruits that resemble hops. It is common on slopes beneath oak canopy.

Virginia Waterleaf with deeply-lobed leaves and light purplish flowers occur in clusters.
Virginia waterleaf

Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)

This showy spring wildflower spreads by rhizomes to form large colonies under oak canopy. It is common in shady woods at MNRR.

Flowers are white to pink and resemble a pair of pantaloons hanging upside down. The one or more finely compound leaves make the plant appear fern-like.
Dutchman’s Breeches


Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

The MNRR is the far western edge of range for this unique wildflower.

A five petaled, delicate white flower grows close to the ground amid a sea of green.


Violet (Viola canadensis)

This wildflower has heart-shaped leaves and occurs throughout the shady understory.

Woodbine, a vine with five narrow leaves.

Woodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea)

This vine creeps along the ground in forest openings and in fields, sometimes over-topping other plants. It is related to grapes and its leaves in groups of five are distinctive.


Common Prairie Plants

The rhizomes are short and scaly and the color of the leaves varies from light yellow-green to burgundy. The seed head is coarse and not fluffy as in other bluestems. Individual seed heads often have three spikelets that look like a turkey foot.
Big bluestem


Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

Sometimes called “turkeyfoot” due to the shape of its flowers, it is prince of the tallgrass prairie. This grass flowers in summer, reaching over 6’ in height and providing excellent habitat and forage for countless prairie species.

Multiple Purple coneflowers that have a spiny orangish-brown central disk with reddish-purple petals.
Purple coneflower


Narrow-leaved purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)

This showy wildflower is frequent in Great Plains prairies. It is frequently included in seed mixes and is now most common on roadsides.

Wild four o'clock's flowers, from white and yellow to shades of pink and red, sometimes streaked and mottled.
Wild four o'clock

Wild four o’clock (Mirabilis nyctangea)

This large herb is common across MNRR and prevalent along the overlook trail. Less showy than its relatives, the small pink flowers are clustered in a large head above the clasping opposite leaves.

Common milkweed about 3 feet tall with clusters of stout stems. Leaves are 15-20 centimeters (6-8 inches) long and 5-9 centimeters (2-3.6 inches) wide. Pinkish red petals in bundles.
Common milkweed

Common milkweed (Asclepias syricea)

This aggressive rhizomatous native is abundant all throughout the midwest. It is toxic to livestock and therefore increases with over-grazing. Its flowers provide excellent habitat for butterflies, bees, and beetles.

Shell-leaf penstemon have opposite leaves, ovate to oblong, thick and fleshy; bluish-green with a waxy blue sheen and clasping at the base. The large two inch, pale purple flowers are five lobed.
Shell-leaf penstemon


Shell-leaf penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorum)

Among the most beloved prairie wildflowers, this species was widely seeded in roadside plantings where it is common today. Its showy “beardtongue” flowers emerge in spring and last only briefly.

Side-oats gramma with dropping flowers that range in color from a bluish- green color, sometimes with a purplish cast to a reddish- brown or straw color.
Side-oats grama


Side-oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)

This upland grass thrives on well drained slopes. Look for its drooping flowers in summer.

A field of yellow prairie coneflowers in the tallgrass prairie.
Prairie Coneflower


Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida Columnifera)

This common Great Plains native is frequent on dry prairies and pastures. Look for it along the overlook trail in July.

Yucca, Small Soapweed, whitish green in color, the long and narrow leaves crowded in rosettes at ends of stems or branches, a stout rapidly growing flower stalk arising from the rosette.


Soapweed (Yucca glauca)

This member of the lily family once reminded explorers and pioneers that they were entering the “Great American Desert.” Its large taproot allows it to survive long heat and drought.

Last updated: September 10, 2021

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