Wildflowers of Spring

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Blooms this spring were spectacular for crabapples, short but sweet in some areas, and for magnolias, little damage from frosts in most locations for most taxa. For a moment, though, let’s step back from landscapes. Following are a few images and short notes for several favorite woodland wildflowers.


Large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflora). Like everything else for Ohio’s spring, it took a while for degree-days bring forth blooms, and when they arrived in a wave of warmth, these trilliums came and went rather quickly.


For years, at Johnson Woods Nature Preserve near Orrville I have noticed the deer exclosure, protecting a few good trilliums from browse. The trilliums have rebounded in recent years as deer sitings receded.  Apparently this year the trilliums rejoiced, knocked down the exclosure and are in full recovery!


trillium flowers in exclosure
Trilliums enclosed in past years at Johnson Woods


Trilliums uncaged
Trilliums tore down this wall


Trilliums uncaged!  Seriously, they are thriving again at Johnson Woods


trilliums fading
Large-flowering trilliums are now fading for th year in northeast Ohio


Plant Family: Liliaceae.


Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).  If you are not careful this early wildflower is often gone before you start taking hikes. It has cheery white flowers of variable numbers of petals , enclasped by a single leaf. This year I saw it at Mad River Gorge along the rock formations and in my yard, transplanted from the Delaware County woods where once we rented a state-park class woods-blessed house. Red-orange exudates from roots yielded dyes to North American Natives and early European settlers. 


Bloodroot flowers at Mad River Gorge in Clark County


As I checked bloodroot on the web this time around, I learned a new word, “myrmecochory”, which refers to seed and fruit dispersal by ants. I had heard of myrmecology, the scientific study of ants, but this was a new term. Joe Boggs would be proud. In the case of bloodroot, the ants collect fleshy elaiosomes attached to seeds. The ants collect the seeds to eat the elaiosomes and the seeds are then protected from the elements and other vicissitudes. Who knew? 

I also paid attention to a Wikipedia entry on bloodroot pollen (no nectar produced).  This particularly resonated because I had just attended a wonderful Bent Science salon conducted by OSU Entomology pollinator educator Denise Ellsworth, held at the Bent Ladder Cidery and Winery at the Rittman Orchard right down the hill from where I live with lovely Laura.

Sweat bees, cuckoo bees, small carpenter bees, and bee flies reputedly come in search of nectar, find none and do a poor job of pollen transfer, but mining bees come to collect pollen and reward the plant with good pollination. I cannot vouch for all the generalizations in the Wikipedia entry, but I now have some understanding of the different bees and their habits from the most reliable Denise. 


Ah bloodroot
Ah, bloodroot! Enclasped by its leaf.


Plant Family: Papaveraceae (poppy family).


Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum).  May-apples (note the two alternate compound forms of the word used here for these “not-apples”) open their parasols each year. If the shoots from the perennial rhizomes below produce more than a single leaf, flowers come in April or May, with small apple-like fruits to come later. Hey, just a minute. These “apples” will be under two inches in diameter!  They should be called May-crabapples. Plant parts of may-apples are poisonous, though there are those who make a jam out of the yellowed, mature fruits. Ignorant of the toxicology, so I cannot recommend it.


may-apple patch
May-apple patch in the ChatScape


Yunxia Ding and David Wiesenberg holding their may-apples to study at Secrest Arboretum


Wonderful foliage and wonderful flowers now. Rust disease has also developed, but I will leave that for another day.


Plant Family:  Berberidaceae (barberry family). 


Many more wildflowers have delighted us all this spring, including visons below of violets in the moist-lands of Johnson Woods, the lavender to azure starry night skies of my absolute favorite wildflower – hepatica - in midland Michigan woods, and a flowing stream of skunkcabbage at the Ledges area of the Cuyahoga National Park.


Violets at Johnson Woods


Round-lobed hepatica
Round-lobed hepatica in red pine woodland near Sanford, Michigan


Skunkcabbage in the Cuyahoga National Park


Plant Families: Violaceae, Ranunculaceae, Araceae


Finally, bluets or Quaker ladies (Houstonia caerulea), are a pleasant winsome wildflower in the Rubiaceae. Patches of sky, sun, petals of four. But always four?  Bookman David Wiesenberg grew up to the rumor of good luck, not that of a four-leaf clover, but of a – five-petaled bluet.  And just as he said it: Yunxia Ding, visiting from the Shanghai Sports University, bent down and there it was. 


Lovely four-petaled bluets


 For all this season, for all of your multihorticulturalism and botanizing: Good Luck. 



five-petaled bluets and Yunxia Ding
Good Luck!