June 1, 2019
Last week we headed north searching for spring, which was just making its wildflower way up the north shore. This week we headed south on a hot and sunny day for what we thought would be the tail end of spring along the Mississippi River.
Many of the earliest flowers were done blooming, but large-flowered trilliums were just turning pink under the leafed-out trees, and drooping trilliums still showed white. High on a hillside several showy orchis looked very showy. Some May apples had already set seeds, but others were blooming brightly under their umbrellas of leaves. White spikes of miterwort poked up everywhere. Alongside the road Kelly found a new-to-us-in-the-wild plant, twinleaf, also already gone to seed. Next year, we vowed, we’d come earlier to see its white-petaled flowers.
Friday night it rained, first distant lightning, then a rush of wind that bent the trees, then raindrops pattering on the rooftop. Driving home Saturday, we passed the same road we’d been down the day before and decided to take one last quick drive along it. Trees arched overhead, and the rain saturated everything so that even the air looked green. On a thickly wooded hillside we found another new-to-us flower, golden ragwort. Our quick drive turned into a slow one with many stops. When we turned down another road we’d never been on before, we found ourselves stopping again and again–a whole hillside of drooping trillium, a gigantic smooth Solomon’s seal, a slope of lousewort, and another new-to-us plant that looked like daisy fleabane with larger flowers that we identified as Robin’s plantain.
Even then, we didn’t make it home anywhere near our intended early hour. We were passing so near Grey Clouds Dunes that one quick hike to check out this sand prairie seemed like a fine idea. And it was. Bright clusters of puccoon and fringed puccoon stood out against the sand, pussytoes lifted their gone-to-seed flowers on long stalks, and the leaves we had tentatively identified in a March visit as prairie smoke turned out to be exactly that, some still blooming, some gone to long seedy tendrils blowing gracefully in the breeze. We found ground plum with hard little fruits, large-flowered penstemmon budding, blue eyed grass, spiderwort, and a whole scooped-out hillside of bird’s foot violet, now past their time but surely spectacular a few days before.
Our early morning planned arrival home had become a mid-afternoon return. In a single morning we had travelled from spring in the woods to summer claiming the prairie, and if we had passed another place to explore we would surely have stopped. Who knows what else we might have seen?
Luckily we have a whole summer ahead of us to find out.