May 9, 2020
Some days you wake up with hope. Other days are harder, when all the uncertainties and sorrows of our coronavirus-infected world feel too heavy to lift, and you wake up just hoping for hope. Saturday began as a hoping-for-hope day.
Then an unexpected window of time opened up to go wildflower searching, and we decided to run down to Zumbro Falls Woods Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) to see if the jeweled shooting stars were blooming yet.
Zumbro Falls Woods is so much more than jeweled shooting stars. Its 430 acres contain so many native wildflowers we can hardly count them all. In the woods farthest from the top of the bluffs we found wood anemone, purple and yellow violets, spreading Jacob’s ladder in bud, and Virginia waterleaf leaves (no flowers yet) along the forest floor. Ferns unfurled and sessile-leaf bellwort gracefully drooped its sweet cream-colored flowers.
Heading over to the bluff where we’ve seen jeweled shooting stars in past years we passed rue-anemone, Dutchman’s breeches, and a whole colony of Mayapple, their leaves shiny as rained-slicked umbrellas. The first jeweled shooting stars we came to were still in bud, but as we followed along the bluff top we found first one, then another, then another jeweled shooting star that had opened like tiny rockets, their magenta flowers interspersed with the tall narrow stalks and lacy white flowers of Bishop’s cap. By a moss-covered cliff we found even more jeweled shooting stars blissfully blooming along with wild ginger and a whole cluster of Jack-in-the-pulpit.
Down the bluff we went, in search of bluebells blooming, past trout lily, wild blue phlox, and trillium leaves. And there they were, just opening their lovely blue bells in the midst of eastern false rue-anemone’s white flowers and a whole patch of pink spring beauty. Woodpeckers pecked, birds sang, breezes blew, and close at hand the river ran.
On a day that began as a hard sort of day, we wandered through a wealth of native wildflowers and felt something a whole lot like hope.
Not quite ready to be done, we made one more stop at Murphy-Hanrehan Park, where we’d been told that many showy orchis grew. We followed a trail down from the road, wandering off through the trees, circling back to the main trail careful to keep social distance from other folks enjoying the day. Rue-anemone, pink ones and white ones, dotted the ground, and a few bellwort bloomed, but nary an orchid could we find. We didn’t mind—it was a fine day to just be in the woods, and there’s always another search ahead, another chance to find a flower that eludes us, this year or next or the one after that. Just as we were ready to give up, we spotted a small cluster of showy orchis leaves, the buds nestled inside promising white and purple flowers in a few days. Happy we had persisted, we headed for the car and spied another cluster getting ready to bloom. This seems to be a theme with us—just when we’re ready to give up, the plants we’re searching for reveal themselves. It doesn’t always work that way, of course, but often enough we have learned that persistence pays.
So does just being out in nature.