Spring is in the air and with warmer temperatures come the spring flowers everyone hopes to glimpse. Most of the flowers people have come to associate with spring are not native to North America though. Crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips, for example, are all European flowers. There are, however, many native plants that “spring” up at this time of year.
Native plants are valuable for a variety of reasons. They contribute to the biodiversity and health of ecosystems and provide habitat for birds, insects, and other wildlife. Also, as they are acclimated to the local environment, native plants are often hardier and require less care than imported plants.
As you walk through the woods this spring, look for native plants growing beneath the trees. In 1936, Minna Anthony Common made a list of plants that were native to the Thousand Islands Region in the journal she kept detailing her work on the Rock Ridges Nature Trail in Thousand Island Park. These three were among the native plants that were already growing along the trail when she began to work on it.
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) has white flowers with 8 to 12 petals that are approximately 1¼ inch wide. The flowers sprout on 3 to 6 inch stems through folded leaves. The deeply lobed leaves open as the plant grows. When the root of the plant is cut, it “bleeds” a reddish- orange liquid. This is what gives the plant its name. Bloodroot prefers moist soil and partial shade and is often found along the woodland edge. At the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center, bloodroot can be found in the flower bed along the front of the museum building.
Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) has small (½ to ¾ inch) pink or white flowers with darker pink veins. Each plant has a single pair of long narrow leaves. These flowers also prefer moist woodland habitats.
Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) is a member of the buttercup family. It has ½ to 1 inch wide blue, pink, or white flowers and three lobed leaves. Hepatica begins blooming in early spring and will continue to bloom into the summer season. Hepatica prefers partial shade and is often found in woodland habitats.
If you are interested in learning more about native plants, visit us at the Nature Center. We have a many books about native plants in our library and gift shop. We also have a copy of Minna Anthony Common’s journal available for our visitors to read. Best of all, we have miles of trails where visitors can see these plants in their native habitat. The best way to learn about nature is to experience it.
Post by Molly Farrell, Nature Center Director at Minna Anthony Common Nature Center (Wellesley Island State Park).
Common, Minna. Rock Ridges Nature Trail: Record of the Trail, journal kept by Common while developing the trail system
Newcomb, Lawrence. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. Little, Brown and Company, New York. 1977.
USDA Plants http://plants.usda.gov (accessed 3/10/2015)
Minnesota Wildflowershttp://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/virginia-spring-beauty (accessed 3/10/2015)
Prairie Moon Nursery www.prairiemoon.com (accessed 3/10/2015)