Picture on left: Dutchman's Breeches Dicentra cucullaria Photo: Illinoiswildflowers.info Picture on right: Squirrel Corn Dicentra canadensis Photo: Illinoiswildflowers.info
The delicate lacework of the leaves of Dutchman's Breeches. Although fragile looking, it handles mild to moderate frost. My find is the left image. Photo right: Illinoiswildflowers.info
Suddenly seeing the leaves of False Rue Anemone, more brown than green when new, caught me by surprise.
by Trish Beckjord, RLA
I have always loved walking the beach (is there someone who doesn’t?). In Florida I am compelled to look for shells. This requires a slow meander with attention focused on the sand in front of me, eyes scanning along the wave line where shells and other flotsam have dropped out. Down in Florida it’s called the “Sanibel Stoop” – maybe even if you’re not in Sanibel…
I also love the Lake Michigan beaches in the corner of southwest Michigan near towns like Benton Harbor, Union Pier, Harbert and Sawyer. Of course there, I am compelled to pick up stones and look for a tiny fossil called a crinoid. Stones with patterns, smoothly oval stones and perfectly round stones that feel like silk, smoothed by the action of water and sand. And, although in Michigan, I find myself in the Sanibel Stoop there too!
So I had to laugh at myself last Saturday morning as I found myself in the same position but out in one of Chicago’s many wonderful forest preserves, bent over looking for evidence of blooming wildflowers and those special emerging woodland ephemerals. Stoop, get close, rest arms on knees to help my back and just look at the leaf litter. Was anything poking through?
I had set out in fog, hoping that I was going to catch Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) or Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis) as my first spring surprise. Both of these species are among the earliest spring bloomers so my anticipation was high. Three forest preserves and 13,039 steps later, I hadn’t seen these entrancing wildflowers, but I had seen so much more! (Besides, it became a wonderful, warm, sunny spring day.) That Sanibel Stoop pays off!
There is much going on out in our woods now where Common Buckthorn, Asian Honeysuckle and Garlic Mustard haven’t taken hold. Cutleaf Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) is getting close to blooming; Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginiana) are emerging. The leaves of Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) are well on their way although their flowers are not among the first to open, and finding False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum), with its unfurling leaves hidden in the leaf litter was a real treat. Small leaves of Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) and Prairie Trillum (Trillium recurvatum) were also spotted as well as others I’ve not mentioned. Some I will need to come back to find them pushing out of the soil a bit later..
But my best surprise, after becoming convinced I was just a bit too early with my visit to find anything blooming, was coming upon Sharp-Lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba) tucked in among the leaves. At first I thought the flower I saw was Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), but then I stepped gently off the path and got down into my stoop position and… what a beauty! As I looked around I saw another, and another and another. What a delight! This was the treasure of the day. To learn more about this little wildflower, see A Plant You Should Know this month. Needless to say, I went home carrying that small gift in my heart.
Today as I write, it is overcast and rainy with a temperature of 37⁰ (real feel 33⁰). I give thanks that I do not live in the Midwest plains states that are dealing with a whopper of an early spring storm. The weather will warm up mid-week next week. We are in the roller coaster that is spring around here.
And I give thanks for the spring wildflowers that return each year. At this point even weekly visits to Johnson’s Mound or other woodland park locations near you are likely to offer fresh surprises every time you visit. I hope you find time to get out and appreciate this wonderful show.
I have a number of spring wildflowers in my garden but somehow it is extra special to see them in the wild. It’s kind of like finding that special shell on the beach rather than buying it in a store. The latter is somehow just not the same…