Love 'em and Leave 'em
Nature Bulletin No. 113 April 26, 1947
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation
LOVE'EM AND LEAVE 'EM.
Two of the earliest and most interesting wildflowers are the bloodroot
and the Dutchman's breeches. The few places where they can be found
in Cook County are on wooded slopes with moist rich soil, usually in a
ravine. Dutchman's breeches seems to prefer a slope facing north or
east, and with it you will also find bloodroot. Both like partial shade,
but bloodroot frequently grows where Dutchman's breeches do not.
The bloodroot blooms first. The flower stalk first appears with a leaf
tightly wrapped around it below the large bud, like a green pencil. On a
warm sunny day the bud unfolds into a big white flower with eight or
more petals and bright yellow stamens at the center. On a cold cloudy
day it will fold up again. The leaves are big and broad, deeply lobed,
with a network of veins. The plant gets its name from the thick fleshy
horizontal root which, when cut, bleeds a bright-red acrid juice used by
the Indians for war paint and by the pioneers for dyes and cough syrup.
The Dutchman's breeches has several nodding flowers on a slender
stalk. These flowers, white or pinkish, resemble the baggy trousers
worn in Holland -- hung upside down. The plant has many pale-green
finely-divided feathery leaves and a granular bulb. The fruit is an
oblong pod which apparently snaps the seed some distance away when
it pops open. After seeding, the leaves die down and the plant
disappears until next spring. Apparently the flowers are pollinated only
by the queen bumblebee when she emerges from hibernation -- the only
one of her hive to survive -- and goes bumbling about, searching with
her long tongue for nectar in the early spring flowers.
These and other beautiful wildflowers have become uncommon or
disappeared because people pick them or dig them up for transplanting
in spite of stringent laws and forest preserve ordinances protecting
them. Many wildflowers are annuals that propagate only from seed and
disappear if the flowers are picked. Few of them survive when
transplanted, requiring peculiar conditions of soil, soil bacteria,
moisture and shade which are rarely duplicated in the home garden.
Wildflowers are much more beautiful in the woods where they belong
and where everyone can enjoy them.
Love 'em and leave 'em.
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Update: June 2012