March 15, 2020
Last week’s 60 degree Saturday prompted us to go out and find skunk cabbage just emerging, so one week later we headed out to look for more wildflowers. Snow trillium, perhaps, or pasqueflower? The weather had turned cold during the week and the ground was still mostly solidly frozen, but we went anyway just for the delight of being outside. And what better place to practice social distancing than a woods or a prairie?
At our favorite place to find snow trillium (actually, the only place we know besides Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden or the Minnesota Arboretum) we found snow still lingering under the trees and earth as hard as rock, but no trilliums. We usually make this trip too early, even though we know the snow on the sheltered hillside is late to melt, and we’ll be back at least once (if not more) to catch these rare and delicate ephemerals when they briefly bloom.
Next stop, River Prairie Terrace Scientific and Natural Area, where we found the first few greening leaves of cinquefoil, alumroot, and prairie smoke. We carefully folded apart last year’s curled brown pasqueflower fronds to find just a few small, furry, brown buds poking up, then carefully covered them again, glad to know that in another week or two they’ll be cheerily blooming away.
McKnight Prairie, our last stop, offered more tiny pasqueflower buds and green prairie smoke leaves, along with many seed heads of round-headed bush clover. When we glanced over at the nearby tree farm, we wondered if we were hallucinating. The pines trees were a riot of colors. Turquoise, pink, red, purple—colors never seen in nature’s forest—grew scattered among the green trees. We’d come looking for spring color, true, but these trees were not what we had in mind.
It’s early, we know, to find wildflowers but never too early to get out into the woods and onto the prairie where we can rest in the reassurance that spring is on the way, that native flowers still have places to grow, and where we can let go of everyday worries and breathe deep in open spaces where the world goes on.