Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
When early settlers arrived, vast prairies covered central and western Iowa with narrow strips of timber along rivers and streams, while much of northern Iowa. Not so in Van Buren County.
Van Buren was part of a woodland wilderness in what became southeast Iowa. Although there were small rolling prairies scattered across the county, 2/3 of the land area was heavily forested.
An Iowa State Botanist named C. E. Bessey listed Iowa’s native trees and shrubs in 1876. At that time, most of these varieties could be found in Van Buren County.
Trees: Aspen, black ash, green ash, white ash, basswood or linden, blue beech, white birch, box elder, buckeye, butternut, red cherry, black cherry, cottonwood, crab apple,
Cordy elm, red elm, white elm, blackberry, butternut hickory, large nut hickory, pecan nut hickory, pig nut hickory, shell back hickory, honey locust, ironwood, Kentucky coffee, black maple, silver or soft maple, sugar maple, red mulberry, burr oak, chestnut oak, laurel oak, red oak, scarlet oak, white oak, white pine, plum, red bud, sassafras, bottomwood sycamore, buckthorn thorn, black thorn, downy-leaved thorn, white thorn, black walnut, black willow, glaucous willow, and heart-leaved willow.
Shrubs: alternate-leaved cornel, bittersweet, blackberry, black currant, black-berried elder, black huckleberry, bladder nut, buffalo berry, button brush, chote cherry, coral berry, dogwood, downy arrowwood, dwarf wild rose, early wild rose, flase indigo, fragrant sumac, smooth sumac, frost grape, greenbriar, ground hemlock, hazelnut, high cranberry, kinninkinnink, lead plant, leatherwood, long-leaved willow, meadowsweet, moonseed, New Jersey tea, paniel cornel, papaw, petoiled willow, poison ivy, prickly ash, prickly gooseberry, red-berried elder, red raspberry, red root, riverbank grape, sheep berry, small honeysuckle, smooth gooseberry, speckled alder, spice bush, wahoo, wine bark, witch hazel and wolfberry.
Many of these have disappeared from our timbers, or are very rare to find, while a few of them are unfamiliar.
(Information from The Pioneer Era on the Iowa Prairies, William E. McFarland, 1969)
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick