We have a long history of habitat modification due to intensive farming here in Iowa. One consequence of that is the lack of much of our native plants. The roadside ditches essentially became monocultures of grass that requires frequent mowing.
A few years ago some people at one of our Universities decided to change the approach to the management of the right-of-ways alongside public highways. They introduced a concept called “Integrated Roadside Management”, which re-introduced plants from the prairies back into roadside ditches. They created a political structure to get the project started, and the County that I live in has used the concept on our roadways.
As a result, we have some of this lovely blue flower in our ditch.
The flower is the large-flowered beardtongue, Penstemon grandiflorus. It is native to Iowa, although it is a little more common about 50 miles to the west of here. I am sure it is in the ditch because of the integrated roadside management program, and not part of a prairie remnant.
Still, I am glad it is here. It is a very nice flower.