May 21, 2022
Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo
Spring moves quickly, so we do, too. This past Saturday we headed south again, this time to see if the showy orchis leaves and buds of Minnesota’s earliest orchid were blooming yet.
On the way down to see the orchids we passed close to Magelsson Bluff Park in Rushford where last summer a friend had pointed out a population of robin’s plantain leaves. Several years ago we’d seen what we thought was robin’s plantain blooming on a hillside near Wisconsin, but the hill was too steep for a photo. When we returned later to try to find the flower again, we couldn’t even figure out which steep hillside we might have seen it on. Now as we neared Rushford we talked about coming back in June when we thought the robin’s plantain would be blooming. Luckily, we checked the Minnesota Wildflowers website and discovered that robin’s plantain blooms in May and June. Given how fast spring is moving, we quickly rerouted ourselves to the park and found a cheery bunch of robin’s plantain flowers with yellow centers and a fringe of white petals.
And those showy orchis? When we reached the place where we’d seen the leaves and buds, we were barely out of the car before we spotted the first blooms, then more and more of the graceful lilac-and-white flowers up the hillside. Celebration ensued.
Minnesota is home to two kinds of shooting star, jeweled shooting star and prairie shooting star. While prairie shooting star is more common in the United States overall, it’s the less common one in Minnesota where a small roadside remnant contains the state’s only known wild population. Five miles over the border into Iowa, though, lies Hayden Prairie State Preserve, one of Iowa’s richest remaining prairies, where prairie shooting star thrives. So over the border we went. Part of the prairie had been burned since our last visit, and with brush and bushes burned away we could see hundred, possibly thousands, of prairie shooting stars in bloom, a glorious snowfall of flowers.
We saw plenty of the usual springtime flower suspects on our wanderings as well, including swamp saxifrage, Wood betony, edible valerian with leaves that looked rimmed with light, and plains wild indigo about to bloom. Spring flowers bloom briefly but exuberantly, and we try to see as many and as much as we can.
Sunday morning we took part in a video interview about searching for wildflowers, and the interviewer asked, why wildflowers?
It’s a good question.
We have lots of answers, but the shortest and truest one?
We love them.