Shut Up And Dig

Wildflowers—learning to settle

Evelyn Hadden11 comments297 views
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I’ll settle for this, courtesy of Shutterstock.

A Facebook post from Rant partner Allen Bush got me thinking about wildflowers—not that we’ve been seeing too many flowers outside of any type here in Western New York. Now is the spring of our discontent: after a semi-glorious winter that had temps frequently breaking into the sixties and even seventies, April has been very disappointing. I hope to have good nature preserve weather by the end of the week.

Around here—as with many regions—you have to venture into wooded areas to see wildflowers in any kind of quantity, and even there they are less reliably found, thanks to deer and the spread of true invasive species like garlic mustard, hogweed, knotweed, Japanese honeysuckle, and the like.  I have to admit that I enjoy color of all kinds when walking in our local preserves and I am sure a lot of it is coming from the invasives.

What you can count on around here are trillium, columbine, may apples (podophyllum), solomon’s seal, violets, erythronium, Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), claytonia, cranesbill, and a few others. I have never seen lady’s slippers in the wild, but I know they’re around. I’m not one of those wildflower hunters, however; I go to a few local preserves where I know I will see common wildflowers in quantity, which I find more satisfying that searching through the underbrush for one exquisite specimen. I’m just as happy seeing well-populated areas of mayapple, erythronium, and trillium—or even fiddleheads. It gives a better illusion that unspoiled areas still exist—sort of.

Where do you stand on the wildflower issue? Still hunting for the one that got away?

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on April 12, 2016 at 7:54 am, in the category It’s the Plants, Darling.

11 Comments

  1. I learned most of my wildflowers in the seventies as an undergrad in a small West Virginia college course on botanical nomenclature. Aside from the occasional class hike in the woods, like the unforgettable one where I first sucked the seductive scent of trailing arbutus up my nose, most of our wildflower hunting took place in an overloaded Rambler station wagon, careening down winding West Virginia back roads at 50 miles an hour, scanning the banks for lovelies like colt’s foot, Indian paintbrush and walking fern. To this day, since spring, summer and fall are crazy busy in the field, that’s where most of my wildflower sightings still occur, on country roadsides rushing to and from my work. There’s still a lot left to be seen just a few feet off the road, at least until the county mowers come by.

  2. I’ve always adored wildflowers! For many years our town has planted wildflowers in large drips, alongs the sides of the roads leading up to major shopping centres. Such a wonderful contrast! And great for the bees!

  3. Each year I go out looking for those elusive spring ephemerals but so far I have only seen Bloodroot. I will be visiting Portland, Or shortly and according to my daughter the sanctuary where she works has about 300 Trillium – be still my heart. She sent me a photo of a giant Trillum and the flower was just about as big as her hand.

  4. Oh Glenda, you are in for a treat! Lots of wildflowers popping out in the Portland area right now. If you have the time, go out to the Columbia River Gorge–it’s only an hour or less out of Portland. Just yesterday, I found some Calypso orchids in my yard, and there’s lots more in bloom!

  5. There are so many unnoticed wildflowers living along the roadsides, unseen by the people in cars flying by. I stand up at all my master naturalist association meetings like Bob Barker, reminding people to spay their pets: Pick up litter on the roads! It not only makes the roadsides look so much better, the treasures growing in the ditches and edges are rich rewards for those who care.

  6. I love seeing what plants and flowers are coming up in the woods both on my property and in the parks and preserves where I hike. I am one of the crazy ones who are trying to rid my 10 acres of the invasives. The wonderful thing is that this gets me out in the woods and the more invasives I get rid of, the more the natives thrive and even return.

  7. Wildflowers start appearing here in late January – usually the requisite California poppies – and peak sometime in March. From then on, you have to go higher in elevation to see them such that by June & July, the mules’ ears in bloom around the upper peaks & ridgelines. But around Mother’s Day the abundance of poppies, lupine, brodiaea, larkspur, fiddleneck, and milkmaids have made their way into the lower elevations. If we’re lucky, the dogwoods and California lilac are blooming too (but not the invasive Scotch broom) and we can go for our traditional hike on one of many trails in the hills. That’s the best for me (a.k.a. “Mom”) ’cause I can enjoy the grand vistas and the tiniest details of all the flowers. And maybe get a few photos of my kiddos out among them.

  8. We have pink lady slippers and painted trilliums at the highest elevations in our woods here in the Catskills. Trillium erectum, clintonia, may apples, star flowers, jack in the pulpit and false Solomon seal are some of the more common wild flowers. The deer are threatening the survival of many of these. The trilliums only exist on steep banks or hidden behind fallen branches. It’s been years since I’ve seen Solomon seal in the woods, but it used to be there.

  9. I remember walking into the woods near my grandma’s house as a girl, and the entire wood floor was a carpet of beautiful trillium flowers. The next week it was gone, and I never timed my visits again to see them. So beautiful.

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