Return to Rustic Road

April 29, 2021

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

So many wildflowers, so many different places to visit when native spring flowers bloom so briefly! But some places are worth another visit, and another, and another as a succession of flowers blossoms, each in its own time.

A few weeks ago we visited a Wisconsin rustic road where almost every spring wildflower we’ve ever seen grows on steep hillsides along a dirt road.  The hillsides are posted no trespassing, but from the road we can still see all sorts of flowers.  We came to check on twinleaf, a species of special concern both in Minnesota and also in Wisconsin, whose flower opens for such a short time it’s easy to miss it.  We’d seen the leaves here in previous years as well as flowers that had been bitten by a late snow, and earlier this year we’d identified what we thought might be the first tentative twinleaf shoots.  This visit the shoots were taller, but we’ll need to come back next week to try to catch the elusive flower.  Do we mind a return trip?  Not at all.

Squirrel corn, another hard-to-find flower, was in full bloom, and a fat bumblebee zoomed from squirrel corn flower to squirrel corn flower, ignoring all other kinds of flowers, even the closely related Dutchman’s breeches. Squirrel corn and Dutchman’s breeches bloom at almost the same time, and both grow in the same habitat although hardly ever close enough to each other to make possible a photo comparing the two (we did finally find two plants keeping close company).

Large-flowered trillium were ready to burst out of their buds, large-flowered bellwort was opening its graceful yellow petals, and spring beauty still blossomed pink.  Yellow trout lilies and white trout lilies nodded, wild blue phlox flowers were just beginning to show their colors, wild ginger leaves hid dark red blossoms, and white cutleaf toothwort was in full bloom, the prettiest we’ve ever seen it.  

Mayapples bullied their way out of the ground like the noses of sun-seeking missiles, some of them already unfolding their umbrellas of leathery looking leaves. Only Mayapple plants with two leaf stalks will have flowers (one-leaf plants are sterile), and beneath a two-leaved plant we found a tiny bud, a promise of flowers to come.

The day was warm but breezy, the tops of tall trees were leafing out in vivid green, and slanting sun dappled the forest floor. Although we didn’t catch twinleaf blooming yet, we were glad to have a reason to return another time. Who knows what else we will see along this amazing stretch of native woods and wildflowers the next time, or the next time, or the next? 

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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