More Woodland Wildflowers

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Gray and chilly weather did not keep about a dozen of us from searching for wildflowers on Sunday afternoon, perhaps because we know how fleeting they can be. Ephemerals, as we referred to these early season bloomers, fit the old axiom “here today, gone tomorrow” to a tee. We marveled at how many little fruits we found on plants like bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and trout-lily (Erythronium sp.), signaling the plant has finished its life cycle. Woodland ephemerals take advantage of sunlight reaching the forest floor before the trees fully leaf out and shade the forest floor.

Gallistel Woods is known for its lovely spring wildflower display. The first burst of color to greet our eyes beautifully contrasted yellow brilliance—the humble bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)—against the overcast sky. Why humble? It hangs its yellow head low, modestly delicate and beautiful indeed. Merry-bells (another common name for this plant) bring to life the quote “The flower has no weekday self, dressed as it always is in Sunday clothes” (Malcolm de Chazal).

The toothworts (Cardamine concatenata) were still blooming away, but we were hard pressed to find even a single yellow trout-lily flower (Erythronium americanum) in Gallistel, though hundreds of the unique mottled leaves were all around us, and just last week I was seeing yellow trout-lilies a plenty! We did find white trout-lilies (Erythronium albidum) in bloom, but due to the chilly and overcast day the flowers were closed and hard to find.

The wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) started to bloom, but just a little bit. We did get to see the prairie-smoke blooming (Geum triflorum) in the Native Plant Garden, one of my personal favorite spring wildflowers, and certainly the most beautiful of its genus if you ask me. One of the group favorites we observed in bloom was, hands-down, the wood poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum). Its super unique floppy yellow flowers and large hairy fruit capsules make this an easy Arboretum flower to identify.

Other flowering plants we observed included one lonely patch of marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris) off of Icke Boardwalk, white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), prairie trillium (Trillium recurvatum), Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata), wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), anemones (Anenome sp.) and violets (Viola sp.). I have so far listed here the native wild flowers we enjoyed, but of course we encountered common invasive plants like siberian squill (Scilla sibirica) and yellow-rocket (Barbarea vulgaris).

To end on a good note though, the last flower we stopped to admire before we called it a day was a single eastern shooting-star (Dodecatheon meadia) in the Native Plant Garden. Everyone marveled, bringing one more relevant flower quote from a famous botanist, Luther Burbank, to light: “[flowers] are sunshine, food, and medicine to the soul.”

Happy spring!

—Lisa Andrewski