Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Wildflowers of our Woods

Woodland Blueberry

by Mary Bennett, April 2021

Over the past month, I started taking photos of wildflowers along our trails. Here is a record of some of the spring flowers I found during these hikes! 

At Elderberry we are so fortunate to share, with our sister community Potluck Community Farm, 130+ acres of gorgeous woods, fields and streams. I love our woods in the winter­ — there is still so much green through the cold months, including lush mosses, carpets of creeping cedar, several varieties of ferns and prickly holly.

Winter view from Little Creek Top Trail 

But as spring approaches the woods are transformed to that short-lived spring green that literally shines in the sunlight. And following on the heels of that, the spring wildflowers. Our woods have an amazing abundance and variety of wildflowers.

This year several people in the community were on the lookout for the first flower that appears, the trout lily. It bows its little yellow head and spreads its lovely green wings and proclaims spring to be here. Often within days of the trout lilies making an appearance, the spring beauties begin popping out, and then the bluets, which soon are blanketing the banks of our streams. It’s difficult to get a photo that shows the beauty of that perfusion of these tiny blue flowers. 

Then, within a few short weeks, we have trillium, violets, ginger, green-and-gold, irises, star chickweed, and toothwort.


Toadshade Trillium

Bashful Wakerobin Trillium

Wild Ginger

Green and Gold

Wild Iris

We are lucky to have a few rare wildflowers in our woods, and one is bloodroot. It is lovely and fleeting, generally sharing its white bloom in April, only in the relative warmth of mid-day, and only for a few short weeks. Hepatica’s delicate purple flower is not really rare, but it can be hard to find in our woods. We know where it likes to live, so we search it out to admire it.

I almost wrote this blog a few weeks ago when my favorite spring flower arrived­ — the wild azalea. There are few flowers as intricately beautiful as this spidery pink bloom. They thrive on our stream banks, and stand out boldly against the backdrop of the dark water.

But today, I was glad I waited a while to write the blog, because I was surprised by another of our rare wildflowers — the pink lady-slipper orchid. We know of a few patches of them in our woods, and some years there are only a very few. Last year I was a bit worried that we were losing them, but today I found them in abundance. I must admit that the flower always looks more like a scrotum than a slipper to me (just being honest), but it’s pretty awesome just the same. 


Wild Azalea

Pink Lady Slipper Orchid

Lady Slipper Orchid

Also recently, I saw my first lyre-leaf sage, jack-in-the-pulpit and southern blueberry. Along one of our trails near a wetland, we get many dozens of atamasco lilies. Today there were about fifteen to twenty, but in the next week or two the wetland will be teaming with them. 

And lastly, I went looking for the mountain laurel, having seen some in bud in a nearby park this week. Our buds were still just tiny, but in another week they will look like little sugar confections before they pop wide open.

Atamasco Lily


Mountain Laurel

There really is no perfect time to write a wildflower blog, because we continue to get amazing flowers here throughout the spring and fall. Some of my favorites are the foam flower, May apple, wood sorrel, rue anemone, skullcap, cardinal flower, blue-eyed grass and pickerel weed.

Foam Flower

May Apple

To help our community members learn the wildflowers of our woods, a few of us worked together to enlarge our trail map and create a wall poster in our common house. 

The trail map is surrounded by photos of most of our wildflowers, along with references to where they can be found on our trails. We don’t have photos of all of the wildflowers, but we have captured 68 of them on this poster!

Each wildflower close-up is identified with the common name, the scientific name, preferred soil conditions, location on the Potluck Trail and time of year it blooms. A convenient source of information for our trail hikers!

Readers, wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying the beauty of spring, and the surprise and awe of coming across wildflowers, wherever they may be!

Written by Mary Bennett; Posted by Joyce Hopkins

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