The temperatures are drifting upward, and you know what they say about April showers! Spring is here, and spring wildflowers are on their way in the Arb. April marks the beginning of wildflower season and even now the first few spring ephemerals are peeking up through the soil and leaf litter.
Not all spring flowers are ephemeral, but it is a common pattern of behavior for plants that would be overshadowed by trees for the majority of the year. Spring ephemerals are exactly what they sound like: flowers that emerge and then, once spent, disappear without a trace until the next year by retreating to an underground dormancy. Think of flowers you might put in a garden, like tulips or daffodils, which spend most of the year as a bulb.
This last week the Naturalists went looking for native spring ephemerals in the Upper Arb. We found quite a few, so keep your eyes peeled for plants like Round Lobed Hepatica, characterized by its clover-shaped three-lobed leaves emerging from the ground next to individual pale purple flowers. Another one we found was the Rue Anemone, characterized by whorls of lobed leaves surrounding clusters of, again, pale purple flowers. To learn more about different native spring ephemerals, check out:
The most common flower we found, and likely one you will have seen around campus and in yards throughout town, is Siberian Squill. This flower was introduced to Minnesota in gardens but quickly spread to the wild and became an invasive. It carpets the ground with grass-like leaves up to five inches tall, each set of leaves meeting at the base of a stalk of 1 to 3 blue, bell-shaped flowers which flare out into 6 petals. The Arboretum staff work hard to keep invasive species out of the Arb, but this one is troublesome. Destroying the leaves and flower do nothing to harm the bulb, and pesticides, when they don’t roll off the waxy leaves, don’t harm the bulb either. We are still looking for a good solution, but in the meantime, this is the one wildflower in the Arb you can feel free to pick!
Sylvie Stanback ’18, for the Cole Student Naturalists
Photo Credits: Markael Luterra