April 5, 2021
Every year spring returns, and we relearn its language.
Every year we are so eager to look for wildflowers that we go out while snow still covers the ground. Skunk cabbage blooms happily through the snow, as, at times, do pasque flowers and snow trilliums, but when the early woodland flowers start to bud and bloom in the thawed-out earth we’re certain spring has returned. Monday, after a weekend of temperatures in the seventies, we saw spring opening around us.
Because the early woodland flowers have such a short time in the sun before deciduous trees leaf out and cover up the sunlight, we headed to Nerstrand Woods State Park, a remnant of the Big Woods that once covered much more of Minnesota. Much of the ground was covered in last year’s brown leaves, but bright white bloodroot bloomed in scattered places along with hepatica’s pale white and purple and pink clusters of blossoms.
Along one side of the trail we found the beginnings of wood betony, small frilled scarlet clumps of leaves that will later unfurl, turn green, and bear yellow flowers. More native wildflowers were already budding, often with a bloom or two, and in a few more warm days the forest floor will be covered in places with false rue anemone, Virginia spring beauty, marsh marigolds, cutleaf toothwort and Dutchman’s breeches. Speckled trout lily leaves sprouted like whiskers on dry patches of ground. On a hillside covered with trout lily leaves we found a few trout lilies with small buds tucked between their two leaves. (Trout lilies only bloom once they have developed two leaves, so all the one-leaved trout lilies we saw won’t be blooming this year.)
This year we are on a search to find flowers we haven’t yet seen, but we also need to see familiar flower faces, the ones that welcome every flower-finding season, so we drove to a hillside farther down the road where snow trilliums briefly and elegantly bloom. And bloom they did, more than we remember ever seeing. Among the blooming plants were many other three-leaved plants that were neither blooming nor in bud, which made us wonder about how snow trilliums reproduce. Are these next year’s flowers, or the year’s after that? One of the things we love about wildflower chasing is how much we learn, and clearly we have lots more learning to do.
The sun shone, breezes blew, birds called, and we hiked into a spring day that seemed, like a time-lapse movie, to be opening around us as we walked. A day to make our hearts happy and know that, once again, seemingly suddenly, spring is here.