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May 5, 2008 / Bo Mackison

Wildflower Bonanza

Over the weekend, I spent quite a few hours hiking in area hardwood forests. I took these photographs in Owen Conservation Park in Madison. The ephemeral spring flowers, the ones growing on the forest floor under the trees not yet leafed out, are putting on a big show, though about 3 to 4 weeks later than typical.

Cut-leaved Toothwort

The Cut-leaved Toothwort is one of these ephemeral wildflower; it blooms in the Eastern hardwood forests before the trees’ leaves shade the forest earth. The crisp roots of this plant are said to taste like watercress.

Wild Ginger Wildflower

Wild Ginger blooms spring-early summer in the Northern tier of states from Minnesota to New England. It is hard to see because it lies on the ground at the stalk of the flower and blends in with the earth – this is the first one I have found, though I think they are considered somewhat common. The roots have a fragrance and flavor of ginger, and once were used as a flavoring and to treat colds and coughs.


The Bloodroot is finally in bloom in the woodlands. The flower is found near the ground, and I moved a huge umbrella of the plant’s foliage to take its photo. I have always seen this bloom in early April and usually the petals of the bloodroot are broader than those seen in this photo. Guess this guy was on a diet! (or maybe he had too much snow!)

Large-flowered Bellwort

The Large-flowered Bellwort has flowers that never really open, they just hang like this. I found huge clumps of these in the ravines of the sun-drenched forest. It grows in the eastern half of Canada and the United States, except for Florida, though it is on a few states’ endangered species lists.

Dutchman's Breeches

I found scads of these Dutchman’s Breeches in the same ravines with the Bellwort and also there were lots of Periwinkles and a few trillium just opening. I love this plant’s name – they do look like a little clothesline of britches for a dozen little men. Folklore says the flower was used in love potions and spells. One of its other names is Little Blue Staggers because it caused cows to stagger in a “drunken’ state when they grazed on too much of the plant as it is toxic. Breeches are found in the eastern half of the US, except for the far south.

Finally – a great weekend, if I minus out the tornado warnings on Friday night, for wildflower catching-up.


  1. aullori / May 5 2008 12:48 am

    Okay I’m getting windy on this post especially because like with Adam Paul – no one really understand the time, patience and yes, even pleasure associated with this kind of post. So I’m going to talk a lot here and I hope your patient with me. First, I love your shot of the Dutchman’s breeches… your correct they look like britches on a clothes line. Your comment about the love potions is both fascinating and not all that shocking. In the past the belief was the look of a plant often opened it’s magical powers – I could see little old ladies saying this will put a man’s pants on your clothesline…. Every time I see a shot of that flower I am so envious I could spit! (not on you… just on the floor!) 🙂 Wild Ginger… oh man! I can only wish we had this! These are lovely shots – usually your very gifted with flowers and these are no exception. It takes a real special gift to work with wildflowers. I loved the watercress comment I love all the work you put into this – and of course your photographs as well. I’m thrilled you shared them with us! p.s. my favorite shot? Your bloodroot. It’s a trick to get a white flower in the midday sun. Beautiful work!

  2. Aiyana / May 5 2008 1:36 am

    What wonderful wildflowers, and such a variety. I’m not familiar with any of them, but I think I like the Large-flowered Bellwort the best.

  3. Gandalf / May 5 2008 7:08 am

    You must have had a great day for wild flowers over the weekend. You have some great pic & a wonderful assortment of flowers. While i enjoy the snow, i am now enjoying the show. 🙂

  4. Robin / May 5 2008 2:05 pm

    You’ve reminded me that I need to get out of the garden and go for a hike to see what’s coming up around here.

    This was a wonderful post with great photos and I learned a little something about the flowers. Thank you. 🙂

  5. gingerporter / May 5 2008 5:49 pm

    These are quite wonderful I enjoyed looking through your pictures. Thank You for stopping by one of my blogs and commenting.

    It was the entry on the bleeding hearts.

  6. ybonesy / May 5 2008 7:02 pm

    I just commented on your post on red Ravine how much I wish I knew more about flowers and their names. Wildflowers, especially, are wonderful. Thanks for this bit of enlightenment. These are all gorgeous.

  7. nicole / May 6 2008 9:32 am

    Oh, I love those!
    I can’t wait to see some real flowers again one of these days….rrrrrr……. 🙂

  8. rick mobbs / May 6 2008 7:08 pm

    wonderful pictures and educational. thanks.

  9. amelia / May 9 2008 3:53 pm

    I’ve never seen a wild ginger. Pretty.

  10. amuirin / May 16 2008 11:38 am


    the dutchman’s breeches are awesome. Bloodroot doesn’t live up to its grisly name. It’s such an innocent looking flower.

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