Spring Woodland Wildflowers

Yellow trout-lily

Yellow trout-lily


The beautiful, sunny, mild weather and love of spring wildflowers enticed sixty-three visitors to join me this afternoon for an hour and a half tour.

The search for wildflowers began after a brief introduction and history of our 1,240-acre Arboretum. We enjoyed our first “wow” on the north side of the Visitor Center. Near the building is a large display of delicate pink and white spring-beauty, numerous violets, a few hepatica, and rue-anemone. We walked past the dry mesic prairie native garden and stopped when a sharp-eyed visitor spotted two prairie-smoke and two pasqueflowers.

Continuing on we arrived at the Maple-Basswood Forest. It is a great place to see spring flora up close. As my “large flock” gathered ‘round, we identified and discussed how spring woodland wildflowers cope with shade in a maple forest. Ephemeral, broad-leaf, evergreen, and annual plants use different strategies. Ephemerals such as trout-lily, spring-beauty, toothwort, dutchman’s breeches, and Virginia bluebells flower, set seed, and die back before the canopy leafs out. They will appear again next spring and take advantage of the light. Broad-leaf plants bloom early and produce broad leaves that persist until frost. This group includes trillium, wild geranium, violets, mayapple, bloodroot, jack-in-the-pulpit, blueberry, twinleaf, bellwort, blue cohosh, and several others. Evergreen plants include hepatica and wood phlox. Old leaves die in spring, flowers appear, and new leaves grow. This strategy takes advantage of spring and full light. And finally, the annuals germinate in fall, overwinter, bloom in spring, produce seed, and die. Annuals include jewelweed, false mermain and annual bedstraw.

Lecture over and onward through Gallistel Woods to enjoy more lovely spring wildflowers. At the time of acquisition, around 1932, it was a 30-acre oak woods. Between 1940 and 1960 sugar maple and basswood saplings were planted along the trails, especially in the area from F6 to G6. The experiment to restore and manage continues. The following were in bloom: bloodroot, toothwort, trout-lily (yellow and white), spring-beauty (especially on the Indian mounds), yellow violet, Virginia bluebell, twinleaf, false rue-anemone, bellwort blue cohosh, and buds on prairie trillium and wood phlox.

“Would that the little flowers were born to live conscious of half the pleasure which they give.”—William Wordsworth

And now, an update regarding our bluebird trail. I am happy to report one female is incubating five eggs! Two other boxes have nests with three and four eggs. There are three complete nests but no eggs yet. Also, one of the boxes has a beautiful chickadee nest made out of green moss and lined with rabbit fur. I have been monitoring the boxes weekly from April through September since 1988; bluebirds have fledged more than 600 young!

Spring migration seems slow this year. Hopefully south winds will bring feathered beauties to our area. We saw or heard the following: bluebird, chickadee, tree swallow, phoebe, chipping sparrow, house finch, tufted titmouse, blue gray gnatcatcher, robin, and brown creeper.

“If you keep a green bough in your heart, the singing bird will come.”—Anonymous

Sylvia Marek