Spring Wildflowers of the Woodlands
Nature Bulletin No. 152 April 24, 1948
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation
SPRING WILDFLOWERS OF THE WOODLANDS
One of the fascinations of spring is the procession of wildflowers that
carpet acres and acres of the woodlands. In the prairies and in
cultivated fields and lawns, the ground freezes to a depth of two or
more feet. But in the woodlands the forest floor is snugly blanketed by
undrifted fallen leaves and snow, and freezes only a few inches deep.
The rich loose porous leaf mold holds moisture and supplies abundant
food for a luxuriant growth of plants. It is saturated by the melting
snows and early spring rains.
As soon as this forest soil is warmed by the sunshine and rising
temperatures, the early wildflowers push their leaves through the
surface. They grow rapidly because of the large amounts of ready plant
food stores in their fleshy bulbs, roots or rootstalks. Many produce
leaves, bloom and seed, days and even weeks before the other larger
leafy plants and the trees come into full foliage and shade the ground.
They seem to know that they must crowd almost a whole year's work
into a few short weeks.
The earliest and densest carpet of blossoms is furnished by the spring
beauty which, in March, sends up narrow leaves a little wider than a
blade of coarse grass. It has clusters of dainty flowers, each with five
white or pink petals lined with veins of darker pink. These flowers
open and face the rising sun in morning, gradually turn, and face the
setting sun at evening Then they fold up for the night. During the day,
if the sun is obscured in clouds, they close until it reappears.
The hepatica, with blue, lavender or pink flowers on fuzzy stems,
blooms about the same time. Then the bloodroot, the dog-tooth violet
or adder's tongue, the purple trillium, the Dutchman's breeches and
the Jack-in-the-pulpit -- in about that order. Then the violets, the
Jacob's ladder and, in some localities, the white trillium. Then the late
spring wildflowers of the woodlands: the blue phlox, the mandrake or
May Apple, and the wild geranium.
Come out, get acquainted with the wild flowers and enjoy them, but
remember: "LOVE 'EM AND LEAVE 'EM"
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Update: June 2012