Spring Ephemerals

When we lived in Nova Scotia, Brittany and I would visit the salt marshes of Cole Harbour to walk around and watch birds. Once, we were on our way back to the bus stop when we passed an old man looking down at the ground right off the trail. We asked him what he was looking at.

"Mayflowers," he said. And he leaned down, lifted a leathery green leaf and showed us a cluster of beautiful, fragrant rosettes. When we knew what to look for, we saw mayflowers everywhere. Not just mayflowers, but many wildflowers with evocative names like goldthread and bluets and roseroot.

I was astonished that all this time we'd just passed this beauty by. I was not a little embarrassed, too, since I fancy myself to be observant. We were well into our love of mushrooming by this point, and I've been a birder for years and years.

All this is to say, looking for wildflowers has become a passion of ours over the last few years.

Spring in Wisconsin offers an astonishing plenitude of wildflowers. Here's a bouquet of photos I took on our weekend trip to the centre of the state two weekends ago. (This is also, by the way, perhaps the last selection of pictures from my old Nikon D200, now that it's been replaced by a Fujifilm X-T2.)

Dutchman's Breeches at McGilvra Woods State Natural Area © 2017 Jonathan Abresch

McGilvra Woods is a small open forest a few miles from Baraboo, Wisconsin. If you visit in spring, the forest floor will be completely covered in wildflowers, primarily the next flower, Cutleaf Toothwort.

Cutleaf Toothwort at McGilvra Woods State Natural Area © 2017 Jonathan Abresch

Last weekend, we found Kurtz Woods State Natural Area, another little woodland whose floor is completely covered in wildflowers. Unlike McGilvra Woods, though, Kurtz Woods is covered in Spring Beauty. Spring Beauty is a gorgeous little flower that opens with the sun. Its leaves look like grass.

Spring Beauty at McGilvra Woods State Natural Area © 2017 Jonathan Abresch

The state flower of Wisconsin is the Wood Violet. It's one of several purple violets that are impossible to tell apart. I'm not sure if the people who made it the state flower really worried about which violet was the state flower.

Britt and I believe that the state flower of Wisconsin should be changed to the next native wildflower, Bloodroot. It's incredibly beautiful, highly photogenic, fun to spot on the spring floor, and indicative of a healthy forest. It'd be a great state flower.

We also believe, by the way, that the state bird should be changed from the American Robin to the Sandhill Crane.

Bloodroot at McGilvra Woods State Natural Area © 2017 Jonathan Abresch

We did go to more places than McGilvra Woods! One of the other places we went was the Honey Creek Nature Preserve, which is protected by the Nature Conservancy and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. It was incredibly wet there—it's been a wet spring here. It was so muddy I had to walk in barefoot down the trails, which was actually rather soothing.

One of the flowers we saw there was False Rue Anemone. The rather bland name belies its beauty. This gorgeous white flower grows in clusters. It is distinguished from two similar wildflowers, Rue Anemone and Wood Anemone, by always having five petals. In fact, the five "petals" are actually sepals, not true petals, because plants like to make things complicated.

False Rue Anemone at Honey Creek Nature Preserve © 2017 Jonathan Abresch

That's it for now! Did you enjoy this little bouquet? Would you like more of them?