A Rainy Day in Banning

May 22, 2019

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

We had planned our trip to Duluth with the idea of seeing early wildflowers.  Unfortunately, weather had its own plans and didn’t check with us.  Instead of a day ripe with sunshine and wildflowers we drove north through cold rain and wicked wind. What flowers could possibly be blooming in this tail-end-of-winter weather?

And yet, as we got farther and farther north, we began to see glimpses of trilliums under the trees alongside the road, sometimes carpeting the ground.  Deciding it was worth a shot, we pulled into Banning state park where more and more trilliums, along with wood anemones, dotted the ground among the pines. Pussytoes raised their small white furry flowers into the air, and in the wet ditches marsh marigolds blossomed brilliantly.

Even though it was raining, we decided to go a short distance down a trail where last year we’d seen an explosion of wildflowers around this same time.  We parked, opened umbrellas, and promised ourselves we’d only go a few minutes down the partly flooded trail before we turned back.  But the sweet green trees, luminous in the rain, beckoned, and we found ourselves following along the Kettle River, spotting more and more trilliums, petals drooping in the rain but still bravely blooming. Canada mayflowers were in bud, ferns unfurled, wild ginger leaves unfolded, and false rue anemone and wild sarsaparilla were just beginning to bloom.

Just a little farther, we told each other as Kelly wandered down a series of stone steps while I followed a higher trail. Finally, full of springtime about to bloom, wild green light, and the sound of rapids raging, we made our way back to the car.  Who says you can’t go wildflower searching in the rain? Not us, not with umbrellas and a whole springtime waiting to unfold.

It MUST be spring.

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

April 7, 2019

It’s become an annual rite of spring:  going to look for native wildflowers when it’s still far too early for flowers to bloom. Over the years we’ve grown a little wiser –we no longer head hours north while snow is still piled deep on the ground here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  But inevitably, after a few nice days, I’m convinced the snow trilliums and pasqueflowers must be blooming, and so we head down to Hastings and Cannon Falls to see. Inevitably, too, we are far too early to see any blossoms, but that doesn’t stop us, even though year after year proves that just because the snow has melted doesn’t mean that the flowers are blossoming.  Two weeks ago, the pasqueflowers were the tiniest of buds on the hillside at River Terrace Prairie Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), and snow trilliums in Hastings were nowhere in sight.

This past Saturday we try again. At Grey Cloud Dunes SNA we see leaves of potential native wildflowers that we can’t identify, and a few, such as prairie smoke, that we can.  In Hastings, snow trillium leaves with tiny white buds are visible, and outside Cannon Falls some pasqueflowers are unfolding their furry leaves with a few petals turning purple.  Not spring yet, but enough of a promise to make us determined to come back in a few days, certain they’ll be in full bloom by then.

Really they will. We’re sure of it.

After all, it’s springtime, and we’re fools for wildflowers.

Imagining Spring

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

March 21, 2019

Since 2007 I’ve kept small notebooks listing the flowers I’ve seen (or my best guess at identifying those flowers).  In among the flower names are other observations: weather, wildlife, scents, sounds.

I’ve gathered up some of these images to imagine spring while we wait for the year’s first blooms:  skunk cabbage, snow trilliums, marsh marigolds, pasqueflowers.

Where spring begins:  the early woods

Pale sun lights up the wet leaves on the forest floor
Tiny scattered violets
False rue anemones like drifts of random snow
Gracefully falling soft yellow bellwort
A flood of Virginia bluebells abuzz with bees
A tree creaks
A bald eagle flies along the river silently
The river itself almost silent except where it rolls over stones
By a hillside spring marsh marigolds explode.
Each tree on the hillside wears a skirt of trout lily blooms

Sunlight through last year’s purple-red leaves of sharp-lobed hepatica
A colony of Mayapples in bud like commuters under umbrellas in the rain
By the edge of the ravine a small congregations of Jack-in-the-pulpit
Fern heads unfurling like a klatch of people, heads turned toward each other
Bright white bloodroot as though it has been dropped from the sky
A whole laundry line full of Dutchman’s breeches drying in the springtime breeze
A fat bumblebee diving deep into a blossom.

Tiny ephemeral pool among the roots of a plant
Clumps of frogs jumping
Geese calling, river running
A woodpecker rattles
A few gnawed bones

A day rich in dwarf trout lilies
their buds no bigger than the white part of my littlest fingernail
The green forest lit with flowers where before we saw only leaves
Spring this year breaks open my heart.

 

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo