BOTANY.

The botany of Clinton County is rich in species both of exogens -- plants having a true wood and bark, and increasing in size by the growth of outside layers, and endogens -- plants having no true wood and bark, and growing from within. The cryptogamia are also quite numerous, the musci, filices and fungi being quite plenty. As a list of all the plants would occupy too much space we shall only enumerate the principal species. That the forest-trees are so comparatively insignificant in size and variety of species, except along the bluffs, and in certain timber belts by the margin of streams, is evidently due to the prevalence of prairie fires before the period of white occupancy began. Judicious tree-planting has done much, and promises to much more toward replenishing the following rather scanty catalogue of native trees:

The forest trees and shrubs embrace the cottonwood, yellow poplar, quaking asp; oak -- white, black, yellow, chestnut; black walnut; coffee bean, gymnocladus; elms -- ulmus Americana and ulmus fulva; willows, several species; mulberry, morus rubus; box elder, negundo aceroides; soft maple, acer rubrus; hard maple, acer saccharum; sycamore ; plane-tree platanus occidentalis; ash, black and blue; basswood, or linn tree ; honey-locust; three­thorned acacia gledithschia tricanthus; sassafras, sassafras officinale; plum; crab-apple; wild cherry, cerasus witch hazel ; dogwood, cornus; shadberry ; Juneberry, amalenchier canadensis ; thorn, crategus tomentosus and crategus crusgalli ; sumac -- rhus glabra, rhus typhina, rhus radicans, climbing ; staff-tree ; false bitter-sweet -- celastrus scandens, climbing ; birch, hazel ; elder; button-bush, cephalanthus; black alder; red cedar, juniperus Virginiana.. A noticeable feature of this list is that the finest timber trees of the East are wanting here. Neither the tulip nor cucumber are present, and the linn is of less size. The oaks are more scrubby and less valuable. The hard maple is found in a few places only ; the beech, not at all.

Of the herbs and small shrubs the number is very great, many of them worthy of notice on account of the beauty of their foliage and flowers. From early spring, when the anemone nuttalliana appears upon the sandy hillsides, until the chill wind of winter browns the foliage with its icy breath, there is a constant succession of floral beauties. Several species of ranunculus enliven pastures and roadsides, and are known to all under the familiar name of crow-foot or buttercups. Liverwort, hepatica triloba; spring beauty, claytonia; cowslip, caltha palustris; Dutchman's breeches, dicentria cucullaria and canadensis; dentaria diphylla, or pepper root; cardamine rhomboidia; Arabia canadensis, or wild cress; barbarea vulgaris, or water-cress; viola pedata; viola cucullata; dodecatheon media, or prairie points; prairie pink, or Mead's cowslip; thalictrum cornuti; geranium maculatum, or crane's-bill; sanguinaria canadnae, or bloodroot; oxalis violacea, or purple sorrel; spirea; phlox, macula and several other species make up a constant succession of flowers from spring to midsummer, while the compositae through the spring are represented by but few species—dandelion, leontodon taravensis and trozimon, with cirsium pumilam, a large, beautiful thistle. Lilies now begin to appear, and two species -- L. superbum and L. Philadelphicum, are quite common. Resin-weed, silphium of three species; sunflowers. helianthus, of six species ; eoreopsis, of four species; rudebeckia, four species ; solidago, golden-rod, of six species ; vernonia fasiculata; liatris, four species ; aster, ten or twelve species ; cirsium thistle, four species ; lepachys; echinacea purpurea; purple cone-flower ; parthenium; heliopsis loevis; eriqeron, three species ; eupatorium, boneset or thoroughwort, four species dysodia, dog-fennel cacalia; Cynthia Virginiana and several other qenera make a splendid display of composite flowers until frost. Lobelia, four species; cardinalis, red cardinal-flower; syphilitica, blue cardinal-flower; leptostachys -- slender lobelia, inflata, lobelia; campanula Americana; C. rotundifolium, in rocky ground; lysimachia stricta; L. longifolia; gerardia auriculata; the curious and beautiful castilleja coccinea -- painted cup; C. sessifolia; dasystoma flava; gerardia; pentestemon grandiflorus; mimulus ringens, monkey-flower; eryngium yuccacefolium; petalostemon violaceum; dalca-alopecuroides; lespedza capitata, bush clover; cassia baptisia, two species ; Lathem's wild pea, three species ; desmodium, four species; podo-phyllum peltatum, may-apple, mandrake, are some of the most common ; several species of asclepidiaceae, or milkweeds, among them the lovely butterfly weed, with its large scarlet heads of flowers, is a very conspicuous object by roadsides and in fields; the calystegia sepium, usually called 'morning-glory," a great pest to the farmers from its creeping roots and spreading vines of rapid growth ipomea panduratus, man root, "man of the earth" a splendid plant, with large, morning-glory-like flower, having a purple tube and white border, and large, fleshy root, very difficult to kill—is frequently met with and cannot fail to attract the attention of the lover of nature. The curious euphorbias are not generally striking in foliage or flower, but E. carollata is very common in dry fields and, from its large white umbellate heads, is a very conspicuous object. The remainder of the species common in the county are creeping plants, and cover plowed lands, if not frequently stirred, with a web of varigated green or red. Of course, a number of plants and grasses have been introduced that have become practically indigenous. The Canada thistle is sometimes seen, but, fortunately, has not become the pest that it has in some other portions of the country. The tame grasses have found a congenial home in the rich prairie soil, and afford the most luxuriant pasturage possible for all kinds of live stock. But space is lacking to speak of the wild and tame grasses in detail, and the filices, or ferns, very luxuriant and beautiful in shaded dells, the musci, or mosses, and liverworts must, for the same reason, be omitted. 

ZOOLOGY.

The natural history of Clinton County deserves to be studied with more care and scientific accuracy than has yet been bestowed thereon. As far as known there now exists no complete collection of its animals, birds, reptiles, fishes and insects. This is to be regretted, as species once common are becoming extinct or scarce, and others not native here are appearing year by year and taking the place of those that are disappearing.

The principal mammalia found in the county by the early settlers were the gray wolf, the prairie wolf, lynx, wildcat, raccoon, skunk, mink, weasel, beaver, otter, muskrat, hare (rabbit), gray squirrel, fox squirrel, striped and gray, spermophile or ground squirrel, improperly termed gopher, chipmunk (probably an immigrant), mice and moles of several species. Rats were so early an importation by steamers that it would not be surprising to see some gray veteran, with the impudence of his race, appear and claim a share of the banquet at a pioneers' meeting. Since white men settled in the county, its prairies have been shaken by the tramp of the herds of bison or buffalo (bos Americanus) as they emigrated in search of pasturage. In 1839, the tide of these majestic animals for two days, just north of the county limits, obstructed the march of a United States convoy. Such prairies as those of Clinton County were then congenial transitory feeding-grounds, but not the proper latitudes for their breeding. The bear was also an occasional resident of the timber thickets along rocky margins of streams, but within the county there is but little broken ground suited for the lair of Bruin. Elk and red deer were found at first very plentifully for many years after the county was settled, though they have long been extinct.

The birds of Clinton County are those of a large section of North America. Several species are only occasional visitors; many others go southward during the winter, to return in spring, while a small number remain here the year around. Among the birds of prey (raptores) the bald eagle (Halioetus Leucocephalus) holds tine first place, and may still be seen perched in solitary state on lofty trees surmounting the river bluffs. The buzzard, sparrow-hawk, goshawk, snowy owl, barn-owl, screech-owl, butcher-bird or shrike, kingbird, kingfisher, bluejay, woodpecker, yellow-hammer, meadow-lark, snowbird, wren, redstart, chipping-bird, bluebird, brown- thresher, tom­tit, yellow-bird, Baltimore oriole, robin, peewee, Phoebe cheewink or ground-finch, cuckoo, plover, snipe, wild goose, several varieties of duck, crane, heron, gull, brant, swan, partridge, prairie-chicken or pinnated grouse, quail, turkey, nighthawk, whip-poor-will, barn-swallow, chimney-swallow, martin, dove, pigeon, crow, bittern or pump-thunder, blackbird, woodcock, rail and humming-bird are found at some seasons of the year within our borders. Some of them are now seldom seen, while others are constantly met with. The practice once too common, but now, happily, abolished in Clinton County, of ruthlessly shooting everything with feathers and wings, has tended to greatly diminish the number of birds, and several species, for this reason, have, in this region, verged upon extinction. That king of game-birds—the wild turkey—was abundant for many years after the county's settlement.

Reptiles are now neither very numerous nor formidable, though, when set­tled, several sections of the county were considerably infested by more or less dangerous specimens. Of the ophidians—the serpents—the yellow rattlesnake (crotalus horridus), and the prairie rattlesnake were frequently encountered, and sometimes attained great size. The former found a most congenial habitat in the rocks along the line of bluffs, and there are traditions of dens of these hideous reptiles, similar to that described by Dr. O. W. Holmes in "Elsie Venner," inhabited by monsters of fabulous number and size. But, except where the ledges are inaccessible, the snake family have been practically exterminated by their natural enemy, the hog, whose method of destroying them is too well known to require description. Very large rattlesnakes have, however, been quite recently killed by excursionists on the bluffs above Lyons, and their real or supposed presence is still, to the timid, a terror in those otherwise delightful dells that break through the bluff wall. The water-snake survives in the streams, though its range has been greatly narrowed by the draining of sloughs and lowering of lakes and ponds. The blow-snake—a kind of viper— the blue-racer, the ground-snake and garter-snake—the most common—comprise the other species. They are, every year, decreasing in number, owing to the land of the county being so generally arable, thus depriving them of their lurking places. Of the turtle, there are four species, two of which attain considerable size. The newts, or Tritons, are represented by one or two species. The monstrous mennobranchus inhabits the still water of sloughs. Frogs are numerous in their usual aquatic homes. The tree-toad (katydid) is often heard, if not seen, and the crawfish is a well-known denizen of the lowlands.

Fishes abound in all the streams of any size, ranging from the minnow to the gigantic buffalo and catfish. They and the striped and black bass, pout, sunfish, perch, pickerel, pike, sucker, sheepshead, spoonfish, sturgeon, eel, carp, Missouri sucker, gar and ring-perch mire the principal species. They are caught in great quantities, in both the Mississippi and the Wapsipinicon. Except as the sloughs along the river, in some places, are filled up by the silt carried into them from the prairies, and thereby depriving fish of their natural haunts in deep water, and causing them to be frozen out in severe winters, there seems to be no diminution of their numbers. The introduction of foreign varieties has been attended with doubtful success thus far, according to the testimony of the most reliable observers.

The insects include representatives of all the great families. The lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) have many species, varying greatly in size, from the great cecropia moth, five inches across the wings, to the tiny tema, less than a half-inch in breadth. The neuroptera are common, dragon-flies of several kinds frequenting the streams. The corydalis frequent the same places, especially near the mouth of the Wapsie. Mosquitoes are in many places too numerous fur comfort. The coleoptera are numerous, and many of them large and beautifully colored. The beetles embracing the troublesome and destructive borers of many species belong to this class, as do the carrion or scavenger bugs. Many of the borers are remarkable for the length of their antennae, and for the strangeness and elegance of their forms. The beautiful and useful lady-bugs also belong to this division. The hemiptera, diptera and hymenoptera are represented by the flies and bees, of which there are several genera and many species. The bumblebee, wasp, hornet, yellow-jacket, mason-wasp, mining bee and hornet are well known. The arachnida (spiders) are found everywhere, many of them, as might be expected, where the wild flowers were so varied and brightly-tinted, being highly colored, and some of large size. The chintz-bug, potato bug and locust are not likely to be forgotten by the farmers of the county, even if left out of entomologists' catalogues.

The mollusca are represented by about forty species of unio, varying greatly in size, form, exterior surface of shell and internal structure. The viviparous, melania and planorbis are also easily found in most of the streams. Many of these shells are beautiful objects, and offer a fine field to the naturalist, being easily obtained. The land species, physa, helix, etc., are found in the woods and marshy lands.

It will be seen that the geology and natural history of this county offers an ample field for the amateur collector or the naturalist who seeks to lay a broad foundation for future investigations by first acquiring a thorough knowledge of the local fauna. It is far from creditable to the scientific spirit of the county and especially to its high schools, that no better collections illustrating local botany, geology, entomology or zoology exist within its borders. Teachers, especially the able principals of schools, could easily awaken an interest in the minds of their pupils that might not result in the development of enthusiastic and promising naturalists, but in the formation of collections that would both be of value in accurate teaching and objects of interest in the future. Moreover, knowledge derived from the study of nature has a pecuniary value not easily estimated. The man who has even a superficial geological knowledge will not spend time and money in digging in Devonian and Silurian strata for coal that might be in rocks above instead of below, working drift for silver or copper or boring in Niagara limestone for petroleum, found only in its own proper shales. He who has a knowledge of botany is not liable to be tricked into buying worthless vegetable wonders. The locust, the potato-beetle, the many borers and enemies of grain all demonstrate the need of at least a passing acquaintance with insects and their habits, and teachers should lead in impressing on the minds of all the importance of such knowledge. The loss annually sustained by Iowa farmers by the ravages of insects can safely be placed above $10,000,000, of which Clinton County bears its full quota, a vast tax to be paid by every man, woman and child in the State, and most of it a tax levied by ignorance on those who despise scientific knowledge.

SOURCE: Allen, L. P., History of Clinton County, Iowa, Containing A History of the County, it's Cities, Towns, Etc. and Biographical Sketches of Citizens, War Record of it's Volunteers in the late Rebellion, General and Local Statistics, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, History of the Northwest, History of Iowa, Map of Clinton County, Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, &c, &c., Illustrated. Chicago IL; Western Historical Company, 1879

 

 

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