Brittany and I took a trip to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and Wildcat Mountain State Park in western Wisconsin. It was absolutely beautiful, even though it rained almost the whole time. The Kickapoo River is noted for how much it meanders, and its valley contains many ecosystems with rare plants and animals. We arrived in time to witness the second wave of wildflowers. Here are some pictures!
There were whole sections of the forest where the floor was covered in Large-flowered Trillium. We were there a few days after their peak, which meant that most of the flowers were wilting. Trillium flowers turn a lovely pink and become transparent as they wilt. It was gorgeous.
Dwarf Ginseng was a delightful find, with its little star-shaped flowers that grow in a ring. It's distinguished from American Ginseng, the over-picked herb used for its placebo effect as a natural remedy, by its smaller size, its earlier blossoming, and by having, most of the time, three leaflets instead of five.
I don't know why, but asters (or daisy-shaped flowers) tend to bloom later than the initial spring ephemerals. We did find on our trip many patches of a beautiful aster in full bloom, Heart-leaved Groundsel or Golden Ragwort.
One fascinating flower that was growing in incredible profusion is Two-leaved Mitrewort, also called Bishop's Cap. This flower sticks up long, thin stalks with tiny, intricate white flowers that look like insect antennae, pizzelle, coral fronds, or snowflakes, and only those things.
Kickapoo Valley Reserve mixes southern and northern species. Starflower is a dear friend of ours from the early days of our wildflower love in Nova Scotia. We associate it with the north, and the second name of its binomial name does too: borealis. It is, however, found all the way down to Georgia. I love the fact that its flowers frequently have seven petals, which is unusual. Its petals are like light paper, and its stems are thin and tremulous. These two qualities make it very difficult to take pictures of.
Their time was nearly past, but we did get to see Wild Ginger, one of my favourite wildflowers. These strange, fleshy, hairy, three-pointed things lie lumpishly on the ground, often in the ground, obscured by the plant's large, heart-shaped leaves. I love them.
When spring ephemerals finish blooming, most plants' leaves die away to await next spring's emergence. They're like insects: what we consider the "life" of an insect or an ephemeral flower is a brief span of visibility. But mayflies don't live for a day and then die. They can live for several years as nymphs in the water. They are also, I learned tonight and apparently this is true, known as Canadian soldiers. All this is to say, here's a picture of a cutleaf toothwort's leaves, dying back to await next spring.
Some spring wildflowers, however, keep their leaves even after their flowers fall away. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is Bloodroot, whose large leaves look like poorly made artist's palettes. We had rotten weather on the weekend, but there can be beauty in rot. The wind blew over the following Bloodroot leaf, and the rain left beautiful drops on its silvery underside.
I hope you enjoyed this bouquet of wildflowers from the Kickapoo Valley Reserve! If you're ever in western Wisconsin, we highly recommend visiting it.