The spring wildflowers are getting ready to add a little color to the forest, making it a perfect time to get out on the trails. Currently, the April woods hold just a slight hint of color (including a little snow). Tree branches are tipped with pink-red buds, and small hints of green peek out from the dried leaves on the ground.
The earliest wildflowers, like pasqueflower, are subtle and may have already come and gone without much fanfare. April showers will bring up the next set of spring flowers to capture your attention.
Watch for bloodroot and hepatica popping up amid the hardwood forest. White bloodroot blossoms set out a bright signal flag that spring is here. Bloodroot has its name thanks to the red sap found in the stem and root. Large bloodroot leaves curl around the stem at night, and both the leaves and flowers open up with the sun and close at night.
Round-lobed hepatica has liver-shaped leaves that stay through winter. This provides a head start for the dainty flower that will pop up from under last autumn’s leaves. Flowers range in color from white, pink and lavender.
Large-flowered bellwort heralds in spring with a flashing twirled yellow petals. This is a tall flower that fills the woods with color. Wild oats, also called sessile-leaved bellwort, is a relative. Wild oats has a small, beautiful, pale-yellow flower. Finding wild oats is a bit like a treasure hunt.
Another northwoods favorite, the large-flowered trillium, litters the forest floor with large white blooms. Trillium, named for the very noticeable three-petaled flower, comes in four forms in Minnesota: large-flowered, nodding, drooping and snow trillium. Only the large-flowered and nodding trillium are found on the Chippewa National Forest.
Some of the more unusual spring flowers include Dutchmen’s breeches and jack-in-the-pulpit. This is another hardwood forest find. Dutchmen’s breeches is named for the pantaloon-shaped white flowers that hang off the stem. The odd-flowers look like “laundry day in gnome-land” and only certain bumblebees can pollinate it.
Jack-in-the-pulpit is colored a deep forest green. This plant is great at camouflage, so keep an eye out for the three big green leaves. Kids love to find “Jack” (spadix) hidden behind the leafy curled pulpit.
Finally, a spring hike is not complete without walking past a group of wood anenomes. Named for the Greek word anemos or wind, these soft white flowers literally bloom and bend with the spring winds and are considered good luck for the person walking by. Sounds like a great way to start the season! Hope to see you out on the Chippewa National Forest trails this spring!