Nature Notes

Minnesota’s Heritage In Bloom

By Mary Beth Pottratz

The woodland is awash in clumps of white, purple and lavender violets. Swaths of tiny white flowers of fragrant bedstraw carpet the woods.

20190526_173011 White baneberryWhite baneberry

White baneberry’s green foliage is topped with cylindrical white flowers. The stamen are longer than the flowers, giving a bottlebrush look.

Smooth Solomon’s seal has just started to flower. You must look underneath its leaves to see the tiny buds dangling below the stem. Mayapples blanket the forest floor. Like Smooth Solomon’s seal, I need to peek underneath the umbrella-like leaves to find green buds starting to swell, and even one in flower.

DSC_0453 small yellow lady's slippers croppedSmall yellow lady’s slippers

Large and small yellow lady’s slippers are starting to set their buds, with just one or two plants already flowering. Blue cohosh, another shade-loving woodland shrub, has lime-green florets atop stems rising above its greenery.

20190526_173213 Large flowered and nodding trilliumsLarge-flowered and nodding trillium

At the woodland garden’s lower entrance, a large-flowered trillium blooms next to a nodding trillium to display the difference between the two. Nearby, a shooting star is in full bloom, its white flowers dangling like little rockets speeding down. A walker stops to report the sighting of a scarlet tanager, and I hear the unmistakable song of a red-eyed vireo. But the wildflowers are too beautiful to search for birds today!

Golden celandine poppies light up much of the forest floor. Greek polemonium, or spreading Jacob’s ladder, is just starting to show its clusters of lavender-blue blooms.

20190526_175035 BasswoodBasswood

I inhale the sweet spicy scent of wild blue phlox. Marsh marigolds are almost done flowering, leaving behind interesting seed pods. A beautiful basswood tree rises from a field of merry-bells at the woodland edge.

A catbird teases me with a barrage of song that sounds like a dozen different birds calling, one after the other, before I realize the scam of this talented bird. A common yellowthroat calls “Wickety, wickety, wickety” and is answered by another.

20190526_180242 ColumbineAColumbine

Columbine’s flowers dangle in shades of peach melba over its green leaves. Spring ephemeral woodland wildflowers – those early flowers that die back after forest leaves emerge – are small and easy to miss. But miterwort is especially so. Its tiny flowers are a mere 1/8 inch across. They bloom along a thin stalk above its clump of leaves.

Also easy to miss are the Jack-in-the-pulpits that are blooming throughout the woodland. Their green flowers hide under three large leaves, mixing in with a jumble of greenery.

DSC_0433 wild geranium tall singleWild geranium

Maidenhair ferns are now unfurled, ostrich ferns are a foot tall, and sensitive and bracken ferns are emerging. Wild geraniums and Virginia waterleaf are starting to set their buds, and some are even flowering.

We have a beautiful, rich heritage in our wildflowers as well as the rest of Minnesota’s natural resources. I pray we all will protect them for all generations to come.

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at

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