Thursday, May 19, 2011


I love wildflowers.  In fact, I love them so much, that I have a wildflower garden in my yard.  In other words, a collection of wildflowers.  Back in elementary school, I think it was the fourth or fifth grade, I had a fantastic teacher who had a gift for passing along her enthusiasm for learning.  She had interests in many areas!  We were learning about the state where we lived, and a part of that study was learning to appreciate the plants, animals, birds, rocks and minerals, water sources, topography, etc. of our area.  She took us on field trips; and the trip to a nature preserve was the best by far.  Before we left, she had shown us pictures of trees and plants, specifically wild flowers.  She talked about what they were used for in the past and how to identify them.  We were given a list when we arrived at the park, and given the freedom to find as many as we could.  She was so enthused, that we caught on to her excitement and we had a real treasure hunt!  Looking for and finding those plants was sooo much fun!  I've never forgotten it, and have enjoyed wildflowers ever since.  Teachers that go" above and beyond" for their students are the real treasure.  I wish I could thank my past teachers, but for many of them, it's too late.  I have made it a point to thank the exceptional teachers that have blessed my children with the joy of learning.  But, I don't think we really thank our teachers enough.  In fact, my brother-in-law is a fourth grade teacher, who goes above and beyond to provide unique and varied experiences for his students.  I love listening to his plans, whether it is his classroom's vegetable garden (that he tends and organizes students and their parents to care for over the summer- "Weeding, Watering, Wednesdays!"),  their autumn feast from the vegetable garden harvest, bird feeding area, reading centers, writing projects,  Michigan rock and mineral displays, field trips to the state capitol, and on and on.  Not too long ago, he asked for a "State of Michigan" tie for Christmas, to wear at school when they were studying our state.  And yes, he has quite an interesting collection of ties, which of course, his students enjoy!   He is an amazing teacher!  So, thank you teachers for inspiring our children...and making your job, more than a "job."  In my case, my interest in wildflowers and many other things, were inspired by teachers. 

                                          A glimpse of my wildflower garden

                     My brother-in-law                               He's teaching a whole new generation, 
                                                                                              starting with his grandson!

A good reference book for wildflowers is The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers.

 Dutchman's Breeches is a member of the Poppy Family with "pantaloon" shaped 
                                           flowers.  Blooms April-May in rich woods.

My husband loves to garden, thank goodness.  His father was a landscape architect and had his business located on their property.  That meant that he and his brothers spent a lot of time planting, weeding, watering, mowing, etc.  They all learned a lot, and as a result really know how to make a yard look beautiful.  When we moved into our house, he had the monumental task of creating our yard.  I had two requests, a wildflower garden and an herb garden.  I got both, yea!  I know more about wildflowers than he did, so I set out to plan the garden. 

                                                   Toad  or Toadshade Trillium- about to bloom

Blooming Toad Trillium-  interestingly, deer came by, not long after this picture was 
                          taken and ate just the flower of this Trillium.  They love Trillium!
A member of the lily family.  Blooms April-June in rich woods.  Fruit: red berry.

Periwinkle, otherwise known as Myrtle.  Myrtle is a member of the Dogbane Family.  It flowers April-May, and is often seen at the borders of woods, roadsides,  and abandoned sites.   This was an introduced plant and is now seen often as a wild plant, forming extensive patches in the woods.

As stated earlier, my father-in-law (on the right) was a landscape architect and started early in the training of his sons, his "crew."  My husband is on the left, he doesn't look too happy, he must not be pleased with his 25 cents per day pay!  haha  My brother-in-law, the teacher,  is the little guy in the center and always seems to have a smile on his face.  (Love those knee patches!)  My other brother- in-law, is in the back.  The youngest son, still a baby, was not quite ready to join the "crew."

Blood Root-  A member of the Poppy Family.  It's single flower blooms early, March-May.  It is the first flower to bloom in my garden.  It lets me know that spring has arrived.  It grows along streams and in rich woodlands.  It's leaf curls around the stem and is easily identified.  The red juice from the underground stem was used by the Native Americans as a dye for baskets, clothing and war paint, as well as for insect repellent. 

Ostrich Fern- I have a couple types of fern, this one develops from  "fiddleheads" when the fern tops are curled up.   "Fiddleheads" are said to be a delicious delicacy.  I haven't tried  to cook them yet; I just hate the idea of cutting off the tops of the ferns.  You can see the fiddleheads in the top left picture,  and you can see how they unfurl into beautiful ferns.

Marsh Blue Violet-similar to the common blue violet. A member of the Violet Family.   Flowers March- June, and is found throughout the USA.  The flowers can be made into candies and jellies.

Trout Lily or Dogtooth Violet-Dogtooth refers to the tooth shape of the underground bulb.  An easily recognizable plant because of the mottled leaves.

My father-in-law the landscape architect.  A funny story:  Whenever my FIL came to visit, he liked to work in the yard.  He usually did a lot of pruning.  One day, he decided to prune back our raspberry patch.  Near the patch were quite a few pots with dirt in them.  He tossed them in the garbage, and the garbage was picked up.  I went out to bring him some ice water and noticed that the pots were gone.  He told me he got rid of them...I think I yelled something like, "MY TRILLIUM!!"  He insisted that there was nothing but dirt in the pots, but my husband assured him that they all had trillium.   Yes, we did tease him a bit about "my poor lost trillium!"
Trillium- As you can see, we were able to find some more.  Trillium is one of my favorite wildflowers....what a beautiful flower! Trillium is a member of the lily family.  They flower April-June and thrive in rich woods or thickets.

Picking a trillium seriously injures the plant by preventing the leaf-like bracts from producing enough food for the following year.  A plant takes many years to recover.  This is why it is illegal to pick or transplant Trillium from public land in Michigan.  Trillium is one of the many plants whose seeds are spread by ants.

                                                Variegated Trillium

Wood Poppy- Member of the Poppy Family.  Flowers March - May.  Grows  in rich woods and bluffs.

Sweet Woodruff -  A member of the Rubiaceae Family.  It blooms from May-June in rich woods.  It is considered an herb.  It has had many uses in the past, the fresh leaves were used in a poultice to heal injuries, it was also used to cure jaundice or liver ailments.  It is currently used for its delightful fragrance when it is dried.  Its fragrance is a combination of freshly cut hay and vanilla.  My MIL taught me about Sweet Woodruff as she was always making potpourri and had this dried herb in small decorative bowls throughout her house.

Forsythia-  This really isn't considered a wild flower, but it is a beautiful flower that blooms in the spring.  It just had to be included!

Bleeding Heart- a member of the Poppy Family.  It blooms from May- August in rocky woods and cliffs.

As I stated earlier, my husband enjoys gardening, thank goodness.  He is supportive of my interests and has enjoyed the wildflowers.  We plan to expand the garden and add a few more plants this year. 

Morel Mushroom- This is also not a wildflower, but a wonderful surprise in our wildflower garden.  Last year, thanks to my brother, we started a mushroom garden.   My husband and son "planted" Wine Cap mushrooms, which did pretty well for the first year.  We also took a risk and "planted" Morels.  It is very difficult to grow Morels, so imagine our surprise when we had 3 Morel mushrooms in our garden this spring.  However, they didn't grow where we planted them...they are a mystery!
Wild Oats or Bellwort-   is a member of the Lily Family.  The flowers bloom from
April - June in woods and thickets.  At one time these plants were thought to be good for treating throat diseases because the drooping flowers resembled the uvula, the soft lobe hanging in the back of the throat.

Three Lobed Hepatica-   A member of the Buttercup Family.  Flowers from March- June in rocky woods.  This is actually a very beautiful flower, but sadly our larger plant did not live this year.  We had to have a tree removed last fall and the Hepatica was destroyed in the process.  But, we did find the "tell-tale" leaves in a few other areas, so we should be able to enjoy these beautiful flowers next spring.  The Three-Lobed leaves in the middle of the picture are the Hepatica leaves.  The name refers to the 3-lobed leaf that supposedly bears a resemblance to the liver.  Because of this, early herbalists assumed the plant to be effective in the treating of liver ailments.

Forget-Me-Not -  A member of the Forget-Me-Not Family.  It blooms from May- October and grows along stream borders and wet places throughout the United states.

Mayapple-  A member of the Barberry Family.  It blooms from April - June and grows in rich woods and damp, shady clearings.  Each plant has two umbrella like leaves.  The small white apple-blossom-like flower grows from the junction of the two leaves, under the "umbrella" like covering.  This flower develops into a golden fruit.  The leaves, roots, and seeds are poisonous in large quantities.  However, the Native Americans used the roots as a cathartic.  The edible ripe golden-yellow fruit  can be used in jellies.  This is my favorite wild flower, I love looking under the "umbrella" leaves for the flower and the "apple."  Maybe I will have enough Mayapples to make jelly this year!

Wild Geranium- A member of the Geranium Family.  It blooms from April- June and grows in woods, thickets, and meadows.

True Solomon's Seal- Smooth Solomon's Seal-  A member of the Lily Family.  The bell-like flowers bloom from May- June.  It grows in dry to moist woods and thickets.  The rootstalk, or rhizome, of the Solomon's Seal is jointed; the leaf stalk breaks away from it, leaving a distinctive scar said to resemble the official seal of King Solomon.  Native Americans and colonists used the starchy rhizomes as food.

Virginia Bluebells-   A member of the Forget-Me not Family.  Blooms in March- June and grows in moist woods.  I did not get a picture of the Virginia Bluebells blooming because the deer ate all of the Virginia Bluebell plants- flowers, leaves,  and stems.  They disappeared overnight. Definitely "deer candy!"

False Solomon Seal- A member of the Lily Family.  Blooms in May- July and grows in 
woods and clearings.  The feathery, creamy -white masses of flowers at the end of the stem distinguish this species from the True Solomon Seal.  Also the rhizome lacks the "seal-like" pattern of the true Solomon Seal.  In this picture, the flowers have not yet bloomed.

 Common Dandelion-  A member of the Sunflower Family.  Blooms March- September, grows in fields, roadsides, lawns...very rare in the extreme Southeast US.   Named due to the likeness of its leaf teeth to those of a lion.  Wildflower or weed???

Jack-in-the-Pulpit- Distinctive "Jack-in-the-Pulpit" formation grows beneath the large leaves.  A member of the Arum Family.  Flowers April-June and grows in damp woods and swamps.  The underground tuber is peppery to taste and causes a strong burning reaction if eaten raw.  This unpleasant property can be eliminated by cooking, and Native Americans gathered the fleshy taproots (corms) as a vegetable.

Lily of the Valley -A member of the Lily Family.  Flowers in late spring.  It has also been called "Mary's Tears" because Mary's tears turned into the flowers of the Lily of the Valley when she wept at Jesus' Crucifixion.  The fragrance of the Lily of the Valley is sweet and wonderful.

I have always enjoyed learning about wildflowers and looking for them on nature walks.  It became a game in my family to name the wildflowers; my kids became pretty good at it.
As I stated earlier, I am hoping to add a few more plants to the garden and am looking for Skunk Cabbage, Marsh Marigold, and Cardinal Flower.  My husband picked up a Pink Lady's Slipper..yippee...hope it lives!

Take time to take a slow walk and look around.  Beautiful flowers are everywhere!

Hope you have a great day!


  1. What a fun post- and beautiful pictures!!

  2. My favorite is the Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Such a cool flower. Thank you for the great pictures!

  3. Very enjoyable post and as always we learn a lot from your research!