Friday, May 13, 2022

Spring Woodland Wildflowers--Up Close and Personal

Spring Beauty
When winter first started to transition to spring, I was excited! Maybe we would have an early spring, I thought. Then the weather got a little topsy turvy. We had warm sunny days, followed by some snow showers a day or so later. Up and down the temperatures went, and the wind! I was starting to wonder if temperatures would ever stay above the 50s when the 90s hit this week! Not only was I starting to get annoyed, but so was everyone else. And the spring woodland wildflowers weren’t sure what to think either. My favorite part of Spring is watching these delicate beauties grow and bloom. Armed with my trusty camera to start my 2022 portfolio of wildflower shots, I was growing impatient as I’d tromp around the woods looking for wildflowers and only see a few shoots or leaves nestled among last Fall’s tree leaves.
Wild Blue Phlox

Finally I started to find tiny Snow Trilliums emerge and then eventually flower. Then came lovely Hepaticas and Spring Beauties. When I found a nice little patch of Skunk Cabbage to photograph, I was over the roof! Not only are they the first wildflower to bloom every spring, even producing their own heat and capable of melting the snow around them, but they are pretty darned cool even a couple of months later. Skunk Cabbage flowers are unusual, looking like a cross between sprouting red potatoes and pictures I’ve seen of the Corona Virus. Once done blooming, their leaves are still interesting to watch. I check on them weekly and am amazed at how the leaves grow between sightings.

Even though almost all the woodland wildflowers in our neck of the woods have been slower than usual to bloom this year, they have been well worth the wait. I was surprised to stumble upon a few Jack-in-the-Pulpits recently, as they seemed to be blooming right on schedule. I noticed that many of my wildflower favorites, like Dutchman’s Breeches, had a longer bloom time this year, thanks to our weather situation. However, the ninety degree temperatures we’ve experienced this week have sped up the process, and many of the earlier spring flowers are now dying out to make room for the late bloomers. Yesterday I was met with a sea of periwinkle Wild Blue Phlox and lavender Wild Geraniums. A few May Apples were starting to blossom, and I will have to visit again in a few days to see if Virginia Waterleaf is blooming.

Sharp-lobed Hepatica

I was also fortunate to be able to see the Shagbark Hickories leafing out of the gorgeous yellow flowers they produce. I suppose I am a tree nerd as well as a wildflower freak. In recent months I’ve become almost as obsessed with hickories as I am about oaks. So once the woodland wildflower season is done, the trees will be fully leafed out, and I’ll then entertain myself with my favorite prairie plants.

I was lucky to be able to find another wildflower site to visit this year, so I alternate between the two areas. Even though they are only about a mile apart, they each have a different mix of wildflowers, and the bloom times between the same species vary a little. Every time I visit, there is always something new to see along with my favorites.

Skunk Cabbage

It may sound crazy to spend what may seem to many people like a lot of time in the woods. However, it keeps me from going crazy, and it’s cheap entertainment during a time when everything is so expensive. The time I spend hiking and photographing is usually less than an hour, but it provides days of inner peace, helping to relieve the stress of a busy spring season at work and home. All in all, it makes me happy, and a lot of good comes from it. Spending time outdoors brings joy to many people. Crawling around on a muddy forest floor trying to get an up close and personal shot may not sound like fun to many, but I’ll bet there’s something else you enjoy doing outdoors that makes you just as happy. I encourage you to make time for the simple things that can make our lives seem a lot less complicated.

Dutchman's Breeches


Purple Trillium