The curtain is rising just now on what may be the best blazing star show in the south of Iowa, sandwiched between the Cinder Path and Highway 65 on the Lucas-Wayne county line just north of Humeston. Blazing star spikes open to full flower from the top down and that process is just beginning here.
If you want to be in the audience, be cautions about drive-by viewing --- accidents happen. The best bet is to look for the big white anhydrous ammonia tank on the east side of the highway and pull off there. The driveway offers access to the Cinder Path and farm fields beyond --- and is public property.
This unique, and narrow, prairie survival stretches northeast for about two miles, the distance Highway 65 and the Cinder Path run parallel to each other, but the blazing stars perform here.
The area has survived for a couple of reasons. In the first place, the beds of both the highway and the old railroad (now recycled into a path for hiking and biking) are nearly level with the surrounding landscape. That means the ground was only minimally disturbed during their construction.
The area between road and old railroad has never been plowed, nor has it been grazed. People who live in the area have been aware of its significance for many years and took steps to head off blanket applications of roadside herbicides when such practices were common.
Had the abandoned rail bed not been converted into a public trail, it is likely that the then-owners of adjoining farm fields would have plowed right through it and up to the highway right-of-way.
Circumstances have combined to protect this rare survivial. All we have to do is enjoy and appreciate it.
Compass plants also are putting on a show in the area, too, now --- and I found butterfly milkweed hiding unobtrusively in the grass on Monday.