Brilliant Spots of Color

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

June 15, 2019

Winter’s white is long gone (well, not that long—this is Minnesota), and now the world is awash in green. Trees have leafed out, the ephemerals are mostly finished, and some of the greenest places we’re visiting now are forests and bogs.  Many of the flowers we’re seeing are white or pale yellow, so spots of brilliant color catch our eye.

On our early morning walk to the Bemidji State Park boardwalk we passed under arching trees and past many, many sarsaparilla, their lacy white ball-shaped blossoms like so many Christmas ornaments beside the path.  White starflowers, white pussytoes going to seed, white bastard toadflax, white bunchberry blossoms, pale yellow lousewort, and soft yellow bluebead lily all lined the trail.

When we reached the boardwalk we found Labrador tea, cotton grass, and three-leaf false Solomon’s seal all blooming white against the mossy greens.  A few last marsh marigolds made bright blurts of yellow in watery places, and deep pink stemless lady’s slippers bowed gracefully on what look like tall stems but are actually flower stalks. Dark maroon pitcher plant flowers rose on long stalks, but what really caught our attention was the bright magenta of dragon’s mouth orchids almost hidden in the moss.  Farther along the boardwalk, several more dragon’s mouths were either in bloom or about to bloom—glorious little punctuation marks that made us hoot with joy.

Under a cathedral of tall, tall trees in the Lost Forty Scientific and Natural area we found more bits of brightness: stemless lady’s slippers, small gaywings with their purple and bright pink blossoms, the tiny pink bells of rose twisted stalks.  On the forest floor, under past years’ pine needles, Kelly found the seed stalk and leaves of lesser rattlesnake plantain—not a vivid color, but certainly a vivid little leaf pattern.

Still hungry for bright colors, we ended the day canoeing around Long Lake where a floating bog surrounds the shore.  It wasn’t long before we spotted one dragon’s mouth, then another, then several, then a whole cluster of at least 16 dragon’s mouths. Around the bog edge blue flag, pale pink bog rosemary, white wild calla, and tiny reddish sundew all bloomed while pitcher plants blossoms so shiny they looked polished rose up above the moss. Even though some raindrops fell and mosquitoes occasionally buzzed us, we didn’t care, happy to be on the water and grateful for the sight of so many dragon’s mouths blooming their brief time of brilliance in the bog.

Check out Phyllis’s new children’s book on the Lost Forty: The Lost Forest

Author: Phyllis Root and Kelly Povo,

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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