Late Woodland Wildflowers

Wild geranium in Gallistel Woods

Wild geranium in Gallistel Woods

It is amazing what a difference two weeks can make in the Wisconsin springtime. Just a couple of weeks ago, we observed a variety of blooming ephemeral flowers in Gallistel Woods, but on this tour they were harder to find in the growing understory, and many are finished blooming. Now the woods are green, green, green. Young maple trees are everywhere you look on certain Gallistel trails.

The wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) were bountiful on this late spring woodland wildflower tour. This plant is a sign to those of us residing in southwest Wisconsin that summer is right around the corner. Several visitors who joined us for this tour were from other parts of North America and the world, so of course flora bloom time is going to vary greatly.

We had the pleasure of observing one lone wood poppy flower (Stylophorum diphyllum), as the rest have gone to fruit. Everyone in the group marveled at this lovely, yellow, floppy-petaled native. The fruits of this plant are fuzzy capsules and quite noticeable.

Though the sun did not shine much during the tour, we did get lucky enough to catch the mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) actually flowering! It seems, no matter what, I always just miss them or I look too soon. On this day, we observed too many beautiful white mayapple flowers to count.

Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) was in full swing. Large patches of this invasive plant made bright purple splashes on the landscape.  Someone in the group pointed out they thought the dame’s rocket flowers were pretty, and that led to a good discussion. Most likely, dame’s rocket was planted because it is a pretty flower. Its name alone suggests those who named the plant loved the plant: the name hesperis is given for its fragrance, and matronalis after a Roman celebration. It does put beautiful purple splotches on the landscape. The problem is not that dame’s rocket is an unattractive plant, but that it is able to outcompete native species of plants and this can rid the landscape of diversity. Many native plants may provide richer nectar sources for pollinators as well. Not to mention, Wisconsin has lovely native purple flowers I would like to see cover more of the landscape once again, like lupine and spiderwort to name just two!

On that note, garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) was ever-present along our hike. Some in the group had never heard of this invasive plant, so we took time to talk about it and smell it. Everyone marveled at the strong garlic scent. This plant is highly aggressive. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has an excellent online resource to help you manage this plant if you have it growing on your land.

A few Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) flowers were left here and there, and we observed maybe 2 or 3 prairie trillium flowers (Trillium recurvatum)— my favorite common name for them: bloody butcher (!)—still hanging on. It is a happy and sad realization for those who love both spring and summer so much, yet we know that summer is close at hand!

—Lisa Andrewski