May 2, 2020
Up on the prairie
If the woods were in full flower, we reasoned, the prairie must be blooming as well. Last year at Mound Prairie Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) Kelly had found shooting star, so on another glorious day we drove over to the goat prairie near Hokah. Along the way we saw our first marsh marigolds of the season, brilliantly yellow in the ditches. The lower slopes of Mound Prairie were yellow, too, as wood betony opened its frilled leaves, still reddish in places, and unwound its petals counterclockwise. Purple violets (all bird’s foot–we checked) and bright yellow puccoon dotted the side of the hill as we scrambled up. We identified violet oxalis, yellow star grass, downy painted-cup, and high on a rocky outcrop the magenta flowers of shooting star. Kelly saw an eastern hognose snake, and I saw the prairie ground close up as I crawled with hands and feet up the steep hillside, which Kelly was sure was steeper than last year.
Back on flat ground, we drove to another part of the SNA where we followed a quarry road upward past buttercups, bellwort, a pink patch of spring beauty, and a few round-lobed hepatica still flowering. Venturing off the road into the wooded hillside we almost immediately found rattlesnake plantain leaves, and then more, and more, and more—so many we knew we’d be back hoping to catch the orchids blooming later this summer. Farther on we found a vast carpet of pink, so may spring beauty it seemed they would never end. Once again we felt rich beyond our wildest imaginings.
The day held one more surprise of drive-by wildflower searching when we pulled over to check out a flash of blue along the roadside, our first Virginia bluebells flowering. Down a steep roadside ravine Dutchman’s breeches, spring beauty, bloodroot, trout lilies, and one wood anemone bloomed while trillium buds hung heavy, almost ready to open.
All through our explorations pollinators hummed and flew around us, and in one place we watched a bumblebee zig and zag, investigating holes in the ground as she searched for a place to start her colony of this year’s bees.
In these times of coronavirus the almost-unimaginable weight of the world presses on us. Finding so many native flowers opening into spring lifts our heart. We’re grateful.
And still smiling.