Early bloomers

After few days of warmth and sunshine it seems as though the early spring flowers popped up overnight. Although it’s far too early to expect the woods to be green in central Iowa, I thought I’d go check out the early bloomers at the best place I know to look for spring flowers — McFarland Park in Story County.

Sure enough, the woods are basically still brown. But look closely at the ground and you’ll see evidence of all kinds of spring flowers starting to pop up. Most are still just bits of green, but there are a few of the earliest bloomers — the shy, small, delicate ones that don’t stay around very long. Blink, and you will miss them.

Hepatica is often the first flower to appear in Iowa woodlands. Purplish white, they rarely rise more than six inches from woodland floor, according to the trusty ISU Extension guide to Iowa’s spring flowers. I found clumps of them everywhere — some more purple, others bright white. I assume they’re all hepatica; I’m certainly no expert. They were mostly growing on the hillsides that characterize McFarland’s woods.

It won’t be long before you’ll see bloodroot, phlox, Dutchman’s breeches, trout lilies, spring beauties, and anemones. And then, my all-time favorites: Virginia bluebells. They will literally cover the woodland floor of McFarland Park.

Other wild flowers that you’ll find in Iowa include nodding trillium, Jack in the pulpit, wild ginger, and May apples. I have many of these right in my backyard.

I’ll be traveling out of state the next two weekends, so I imagine when I come back the wildflowers will be in full bloom. Some may have already come and gone. So don’t wait…get out there and tromp around in the woods!

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