Spring Wildflowers

I have been enjoying walks through our little woods. Many of the earliest wildflowers are about to perform their annual spectacular show. Woodland wildflowers are beautiful and a welcome sign of spring. Here are some examples of the earliest flowers to bloom in the woods.

A common woodland wildflower is the spring beauty (Claytonia virginica). This is a low plant with loose clusters of pink or whitish flowers, striped with dark pink. The flowers are ½ - ¾ inch wide with five petals. Leaves are long, linear and grass-like. These flowers bloom from March to May in moist woods and clearings. This spring perennial is spectacular in large patches and grows from an underground tuber like a small potato.

A more noticeable native wildflower is Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica). This 8-24 inch erect plant has smooth gray-green leaves and nodding clusters of light blue trumpet-shaped flowers. The individual flowers start as pink buds and open to about 1 inch long. Virginia bluebells flower from March to June in moist woods and is also a popular shade garden plant. Grown in masses, this flower is hard to miss.

There are several flowers from the poppy family making a show right now: Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), corydalis (Corydalis sp.), and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Dutchman's breeches and corydalis have delicate, fern-like leaves and grow to about a foot tall. Dutchman's breeches are more common. The name comes from the clusters of fragrant, white, pantaloon-shaped flowers. Corydalis flowers are pink or yellow, tubular, and not really very showy. Bloodroot has a solitary white flower, with a golden-orange center that grows beside a lobed leaf. Roots and stems have an acrid red-orange juice, thus the name Bloodroot. It lasts for a short time and may be hard to find now.

Two more woodland flowers you are sure to see soon are wild blue phlox and wild geranium. Wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) has loose clusters of slightly fragrant light blue flowers above creeping oval leaves. Also called Wild Sweet William, it will bloom from April to June. I remember seeing these as a child while walking the woods with my dad. Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) is easily recognized by its typical geranium leaves and loose clusters of lavender flowers. It grows 1-2 foot tall and is found from April to June. One of the more delicate spring flowers is the rue anemone. The delicate plant has several stalked, white flowers rising above a whorl of compound leaves. The flowers are spectacular at almost 1 inch across, with 5-10 petals of white. This is a small plant that only grows 4 to 8 inches tall.

These are just a few of the flowers to look for while exploring our woodlands this spring. If you are lucky, you might also see Jack-in-the-pulpit, trillium, or trout lily, as well as morel mushrooms. Although most of the ones mentioned here are numerous, some of our wildflowers are becoming rare. Leave them to assure they'll remain for others to see in the future.