We came to Carley State Park for the Virginia bluebells, and we found them –some blooming, many about to bloom in glorious blue. But we found so much more than bluebells—a whole springtime’s worth of wildflowers. On our way down the steps to the Wildflower Trail we saw trout lilies, mayapple in bud, hepatica, Virginia bluebells, Dutchman’s breeches, eastern false rue-anemone, Canadian wild ginger, large-flowered bellwort, and bishop’s cap. At the bottom of the steps around mossy rocks and roots of a tree we found a whole little community of wildflowers all blooming together: eastern false rue anemone, Virginia bluebells, Dutchman’s breeches, Canadian wild ginger, and cutleaf toothwort, enough to make any wildflower lover fall in love all over again.
The trail led us along the river valley through more Virginia bluebells, eastern false rue anemone, trout lilies, large-flowered bellwort, and a few bloodroot still flowering. On the hillside across the valley bluebells flowed down like another river, this one vividly and beautifully blue. Through it all the river ran, burbling in places, silent in others, while birdsong wove in and out of trees which were just beginning to leaf out in bright shades of yellow green.
When the tree canopy fills in, the spring wildflowers, ephemeral or not, will be almost done. This is their time of glory, and Carley State Park, on a cool bright morning in May was exactly the right place to be.
Learn more: What is a spring ephemeral?
Flowers that grow in the Big Woods bloom early and quickly. They have only a few fleeting weeks to soak up sunshine before the leaf canopy of the trees gobbles up the sun and shades the ground. Some of these flowers are called spring ephemerals, which means they last only a short time and then disappear completely from sight until the next spring.
At least nine flowers in Minnesota are considered true ephemerals: snow trillium, bloodroot, cutlet toothwort, Dutchman’s breeches, eastern false rue-anemone, dwarf trout lily, white trout lily, yellow trout lily, and Virginia spring beauty.