Strasser Woods State Preserve

Strasser Woods State Preserve contains a 40-acre tract of forest within the city limits of Des Moines. Joseph and Elizabeth Strasser, who had owned the property since 1965, donated the woodland to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in 1981. The area was transferred to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in 1982 and dedicated as a biological state preserve. Located along the southern margin of the Des Moines Lobe landform region, the preserve contains an upland forest and an old field in a bottomland. The upland woodlands are dominated by basswood, with some bitternut hickory, red oak, American elm, and buckeye. The understory includes shrubs such as hazelnut, hawthorn, honeysuckle, common elder, and coralberry. The grassy old field in the bottomland is partially filled with Kentucky coffee tree, box elder, American elm, silver maple, and cottonwood. The upland forest area features a good display of spring wildlflowers. Bloodroot, swamp buttercup, rue anemone, and hairy blue violet begin blooming as early as March, followed by downy yellow violet, spring beauty, wild ginger, Dutchman’s breeches, white troutlily, Solomon’s seal, bellwort, mayapple, blue cohosh, woodland phlox, toothwort, jack-in-the-pulpit, and wild geranium. In the summer you can find wild leek, wild yam, woodland sunflower, purple joe-pye-weed, starry campion, and zigzag goldenrod blooming. By August, blue wood aster and elm-leaved goldenrod can be seen among the northern maidenhair fern, rattle­snake fern, and creeping fragile ferns that cover the forest floor. The Four Mile Creek Greenway (featuring a bicycle trail) runs along the creek through the bottomland. Several hiking trails also run through the upland portions of the preserve. Other natural areas in the vicinity include Brown’s Woods, Walnut Woods State Park, Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, Yellowbanks Park, Margo Frankel State Park, and Engeldinger Marsh.

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