A Tale of Two Forests

May 23, 2019

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

We wildflower searchers live in hope.  Perhaps this year we’ll find green dragon growing in the wild. Perhaps we see ball cactus blooming. Perhaps, even though it just snowed last week in Duluth, we’ll still find signs of spring on this trip north.

We’ve come north to do promotional events and talks about our book Searching for Minnesota’s Native Wildflowers. Yesterday was a day of travel, a television interview, and a talk at a Wild Ones chapter. (Watch our T.V. interview segment HERE starting at 3:38.) Yesterday we also found wildflowers in Banning State Park, and today we’re headed for two forests around Duluth.

As we drive toward Magney-Snively Natural Area, our first forest of the day, the sun breaks through the clouds and throws a rainbow across the sky.  We take it as a sign of good flowering things to come.  And we’re not disappointed—along the road to the trail we spot large-flowered trilliums, their blossoms still droopy with rain, and marsh marigolds brightening the roadside ditches. Along the trail itself we find Canada mayflower leaves with buds, wild sarsaparilla just emerging from the ground, ferns in every shape of unfurling, horsetail like tiny pine trees, and the soft pale yellow blooms of sessile-leaf bellwort.  A few Jack-in-the-pulpit flowers are scattered around, along with rue anemone and wood anemone.  A cluster of leaves puzzles us until we find one with a budding stalk and realize bluebead lilies will soon be blooming.  Another puzzling cluster of basal leaves with a raggedy bud in the center turns out to be swamp saxifrage. And along a side trail we find one panicled bluebell in bloom. Even the drive farther along the road reveals a waterfall of yellow large-flowered bellwort on the hillsides.

The second forest grows on Park Point, the Minnesota Point Pine Forest Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), 18 acres of old growth pine forest at the tip of a long sandbar. The walk to the SNA leads along the beach ridge with Lake Superior waves rolling toward shore on one side.  Entering the forest is like moving into a different world, one green with light through the tall red and white pines overhead, many of them up to 200 years old. Here we find Canada mayflower and trillium in bud, wild sarsaparilla just beginning to open its leaves and balls of blooms, lots of bluebead lily leaves and one flowering plant (confirming our identification earlier in the day).  On the hike back to the car we see many many clusters of leaves that we identify, with the help of a guidebook, as starry false Solomon’s seal.  Who knew it could thrive in sand?

For the record, we’ve still got time this year to look for green dragon.  We’ll keep an eye on the calendar to find ball cactus in bloom. And even after snowfall in late May Duluth, the wildflowers are thriving.

We live in hope.

Author: Phyllis Root and Kelly Povo, flowerchasers.com

Phyllis Root is the author of fifty books for children and has won numerous awards. Kelly Povo, a professional photographer for over thirty years, has exhibited in galleries and art shows across the country. She and Phyllis Root have collaborated on several books. This is their first book on Minnesota's Native Wildflowers.

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