Iowa Edible Wild Plants

Iowa Edible Wild PlantsEvery state in the country has wild edibles growing there. If you plan on trekking into the wilds of Iowa, it is best to familiarize yourself with the local plant life. Carrying a field guide with you while backpacking, is the safest way to travel. In a survival situation you will need to know what you can safely eat. Remember, some edible plants have poisonous look-alikes. If you are unsure about the toxicity of a plant---don't eat it.


The serviceberry is a small tree that can grow to 30 feet tall. It has coarsely toothed leaves and long clusters of white flowers. Fruits look like blueberries and have tiny seeds. They can be eaten raw or cooked. Serviceberries can be found in moist woods, along streams or on hillsides. Black walnut trees are native to the state. These trees can reach a height of 75 feet and are generally found in the bottomlands or slopes. The fruits are fleshy and yellow-green. Inside is the black edible nut. These nuts can be eaten cooked, roasted or raw. Cherry trees (pictured at the top) growing wild in Iowa produce a tart tasting fruit. These trees can be quite tall at 50 to 60 feet. The clusters of white flowers eventually turn into fruit in summer. The cherries can either be cooked or eaten raw.


red currant

Currants (pictured above) and gooseberries both grow wild in the bottomlands and slopes of Iowa. Though the plants can be mistaken for each other, the telling difference is in their branches. The gooseberry has prickly ones and the currant does not. Both have clusters of white flowers which turn into the fruits. These fruits can be eaten raw or used to make pie or jellies. Grape vines grow wild in a variety of soils throughout the state. They produce fruit in the warmer months. The toothed, leafed vines can be found growing along fences, old fields and throughout the trees. The grapes can either be eaten raw or cooked.

Greens and Potherbs


Wild onions found in the region can be use just like any other onion. They can be used as a seasoning or eaten raw. These are mainly found in dry areas and grow to a height of 12 inches with flowers ranging from rose to white. Their leaves are grass like and if you smash the leaf in your hand, you should smell an onion scent. Wild leeks are another plant similar to the wild onion and are also known as ramps (pictured above). They are mainly found in rich woodlands with elliptical leaves surrounding the base of the plant and clusters of white flowers on top. They can be used just like a wild onion. Dandelions are mainly known for their flowers but they are a good food source too. The plants grow in all areas and are anywhere from two to 20 inches tall. Their leaves are fluffy in appearance with yellow flowers that bloom yearlong. The tender young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked as a green. The flowers are edible and tea can be made out of them.

Article Written By Joyce Starr

Joyce Starr is a professional writer from Florida and owns a landscaping company and garden center. She has published articles about camping in Florida, lawn care and gardening and writes for a local gardening newsletter. She shares her love and knowledge of the outdoors and nature through her writing.

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