|Here is my largest Trillium nivale
(snow trillium) plant in full bloom on April 5. That's relatively
early for here. It's located under a bur oak, which is one of the
last trees to leaf out, so this plant gets blasted with full sun for
several weeks. The plant doesn't seem to mind, and it's probably
my best plant for seed production. If I plucked off spent
blossoms instead of keeping the plant in reproductive slavery, it might
grow into an even larger clump, but I prefer having the seeds for
starting new plantations. T. nivale self seeds readily
here, but always into other cultivated areas. I've never found a
spontaneous seedling in my woods, probably because there is too much
|Here are two non-native very early
spring ephemerals: Corydalis ornata left and Corydalis
I have long admired the ethereal blues of some of the Chinese Corydalis species, hybrids and cultivars of which are readily available in the U.S. such as Corydalis 'Blue Heron.' Alas, these plants are not hardy in most of the northern U.S., and certainly not here in northern Minnesota. Fortunately there are Siberian plants with similar coloration, and with the help of my late German friend Gerhard, I was able to purchase such plants from a German nursery. The plants shown here are two such species, and they seem quite well adapted to our Minnesota climate.
I really miss my friend Gerhard, who died in summer 2022. He and I corresponded at length and exchanged many plants.
|Back to natives. We're up to May 2
now, and bloodroot is in full bloom (left), and spring beauty (right)
is getting a good start. The blood root at left is under a large
American elm, whose trunk is partially shown in the upper left.
At the time of the photo the elm was dying of Dutch elm disease.
It will be interesting to see how the bloodroot and other wildflowers
do without the shade of this magnificent tree. I think the
bloodroot will be OK, but I'm concerned about some of the others.
|We're up to May 8 now, and lots of
things are blooming. At left Hepatica acutiloba is in
full bloom while Polemonium reptans, Jacob's ladder, is not
quite there yet but promises a later display. Dicentra
Dutchman's breeches at right is at its peak. The lighter green
leaves at lower right of the breeches are rapidly growing shoots of Collinsia
|Corydalis buschii (left) is
another Russian species that is hardy here.
At right is my largest Erythronium americanum having eight flowers. Count 'em!
|Uvularia grandiflora, great
bellwort or merrybells, (left) is great as a specimen plant, but
it often occurs as nearly a groundcover in hardware forests around here.
At right is a Trillium grandiflorum forma roseum plant that my friend Dan in Virginia sent me. The unique attribute of this plant is that the flowers open pink. Most T. grandiflorum flowers turn pink with age, but f. roseum flowers open pink. Note the usual T. grandiflorum with white flowers in the background.
|I thought you might appreciate a closeup
of the nicely colored plant at the right end in the above photo.
The color of shooting star flowers, like that of many plants, varies
considerably from year to year and seems to depend on environmental
factors such as temperature and the amount of sunlight the plant
receives as well as genetics. Shooting star flowers are
buzz-pollinated by our
|It's May 20 now and Virginia bluebells
and woodland phlox are blooming,...
|...and so are big trilliums. Here
we have Trillium grandiflorum, Uvularia grandiflora,
and our ubiquitous yellow Viola pubescens.
|Trillium grandiflorum is at its peak
now. This is a nice patch, but it's threatened by our aggressive
ostrich fern, and I keep having to dig them out, or at least I try to.
|Trillium flexipes (left) is even
bigger than T. grandiflorum. Note how T. flexipes
towers over the white trillium in the background. T. flexipes
is native to Minnesota, but not to Itasca County, where I live.
Dicentra eximia or fringed bleeding heart (right) is not even native to Minnesota. It's range is the Appalachian Mountains, where the plant thrives on rocky ledges. I continue to have trouble keeping this plant alive for more than a few seasons. It grows into attractive clumps like this but then fades away after several years. Fortunately it seeds around before it dies, so usually I have a supply of new plants, but the species is supposedly long lived, and I wish it were for me.
|At left is a small patch of
Jack-in-the-pulpit that appeared as volunteer seedlings in a damp area
next to our garage. That area is damp because lazy Bill hasn't
bothered to clean the garage gutters and the result is an unplanned
rain garden. I just realized that although Jack-in-the-pulpit is
a favorite wildflower for many people, I have taken relatively few
photos, probably because the plant is so common here that I tend to
take it for granted. Having realized my neglect, I'll plan to
take more photos in the future.
I don't take Galearis spectabilis, showy orchis, for granted! It's one of my favorite plants, the first native orchid I ever found and identified as a kid in Indiana. It's not native here in Itasca County but does occur in northern Minnesota and is fairly common in southern Minnesota. My plants have come from several sources: gifts from two different friends and purchases from Gardens of the Blue Ridge. In the photo at right several Collinsia verna plants are seen blooming behind the orchids.
|This is our wonderful native northern
bluebells, Mertensia paniculata.
I say "wonderful" because not only do they have an abundance of little
flowers, but unlike Virginia bluebells, the green leaves of our
northern plant remain after the flowers and continue to look good all
summer. Our northern species seeds around just as
freely here as does Virginia bluebells.
|An even closer shot of northern bluebell
flowers at left.
Here's a real mystery. At right is a pot of Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin, the small-flowered yellow lady's-slipper that I grew from seed of Vermont provenance. Why do the lips of the flowers have red blotches? I don't know and apparently no one else does either. I've seen photos of wild plants with these blotches from far western Minnesota. The plants in the pot at right have bloomed for several years and have never shown the blotches before. If you have an explanation, not just a guess, please tell me.
|Several years ago two Botrychium
plants showed up as volunteers along the edge of one of my
lady's-slipper beds. I know very little about Botrychium,
but I am guessing that this is B. matricariifolium
as that is one of the most common species in Minnesota. The
fruiting part of the leaf is called the sporophore, and the little
spherical spore cases are called sporangia.
|This is a volunteer I wish I didn't
have. When we moved to Minnesota in 1997, there was only one record of
this Eurasian orchid, Epipactis helleborine, in Minnesota and
none from this part of the state. I happened to find several in a
high quality hardwood forest on iron mining company land. I
collected a couple plants and gave them to the Olga Lakela Herbarium at
University of Minnesota Duluth. In the intervening years the
orchid grew to considerable abundance on that mining company land, and
alas, three or four years ago, the plant showed up in a hardwood patch
on county land just across the highway from our property. With
the plant in this photo, the species has now invaded my yard.
After snapping this photo, I ripped the plant out. Actually one
must be careful to dig out the rhizome; otherwise, the plant will
just reappear. Last time I was in New England, circa 2000, I
found the plant growing all over the forests of Vermont. This
weedy orchid is now a pest here because it takes up space in high
quality woodland habitat that could be occupied by native
wildflowers. Moreover, I find it's a terrible distraction because
when seen out of the corner of my eye, the foliage somewhat resembles
that of our native Cypripedium orchids.
|To end on a happier note, both Lobelia
cardinalis and L. siphilitica seem happy here. Though
native to Minnesota, L. cardinalis
does not get this far north. The cardinal flower has shown up as
a volunteer here multiple times, and I suspect the seeds must have
arrived stowed away in the soil of other nursery plants that I have
purchased from time to time. The plant dies back each fall but
offsets are left that can grow into new plants. I have read
conflicting advice about how to perpetuate the plant from these
offsets. Some authors say to mulch them for protection in cold
other gardeners recommend clearing the plantlets of debris so they can
photosynthesize and grow on warmer fall and spring days. I have
tried both approaches with plants that have appeared from time to time,
and both methods failed. By the time this latest plant showed up
down by the artificial pond in the yard, I assumed it would die and
the winter, and so I didn't bother to help in any way. The plant
has now returned after two winters!
The great blue lobelia is native here and is a very easy plant to grow and returns every year with no help from me.