WILDFLOWERS - By Carol Rustad
writer today is Carol Rustad. Carol tries to spend the peak time of year
for wildflowers (April 15 to May 15) in Minnesota, guiding wildflower
tours through the countryside. Carol has a
Master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
and has traveled around the world (Ecuador, Tanzania, and Norway) to see
wildflowers in their natural habitat.
Carol is drawn to shady native plants in her own heavily shaded yard,
except for a sunny berm in the front that was teeming with tulips this
spring and other perennials that thrive in the heat. She is a Master
Gardener and does preservation volunteer work with the Wachiska-Audubon
Conservation committee. Her mixed media painting of the prairie
spiderwort plant (Tradescantia occidentalis) won the Nebraska Statewide
Arboretum’s botanical illustration contest for 2005.)
My first spring
thoughts are of wildflowers when I dream about the woods in southeastern
Minnesota where I lived as a child.
Lanesboro, MN, my hometown, is located in bluff country
approximately 45 miles southeast of Rochester and near the Wisconsin and
The glacier did
not pass through this area therefore the hills and valleys are filled
with both pre and post glacial flowers.
Each spring I lead wildflower tours on the seven acres I own in
the area. They became mine
when efforts to halt logging the woods failed. I paid prime farm prices
for bluffs and ravines, worthless agriculturally, but priceless as a
Walk with me on
a typical tour through the woods gradually making our way to the top of
a high bluff. The valley
floor is carpeted with false rue anemone. Some
locals call them “May flowers”.
As a child my May baskets were filled with them.
You can’t take one step without crushing them.
So we follow a deer path on the edge of a ravine.
Jack in the pulpits are standing guard.
May apples spread their wide leaves.
Close examination will reveal fragile spring beauty with its five
pink petals veined in deep scarlet.
The three liver-like pointed lobes of hepatica leaves and the
graceful swirl of maidenhair fern catch our eye.
Wild ginger with its secret single flower hidden at the base of
its leaves and wild onions spade-like leaves were used by the Indians
for food flavoring. Lacy
dutchman’s breeches (yes, their flowers look like baggy pants) and
Virginia bluebells are almost done blooming. These ephemerals complete their yearly life cycle before
the trees have fully leafed out and blocked the sun. Their leaves will quickly disappear into the forest floor
until next year. We spread
some juice from a bloodroot stem on the back of our hand.
It looks like mercurochrome and was used by the Indians for war
paint and dye. Blue cohash
and meadow rue provide a taller contrast to break the rhythm of the low
growing flowers. If we are
lucky we will find a yellow lady slipper enticing insects into its
hollow cavern for pollination.
As we enter the
deep ravine we may slip a little. We
pick our way carefully from rock to rock and scramble up crude rock
steps on the other side grasping small saplings for support.
Some trash has been thoughtlessly dumped over the edge of the
minimum maintenance road above. Tires,
appliances, and debris tarnish the woodland sanctuary.
The deer trail
proceeds upward. A new floral ecosystem has appeared. The pink rue anemone flowers spoke from a top leaf juncture
replacing the false rue anemone carpet.
Yellow violets, blue phlox and red columbine present their color
wheel of blooms.
Near the top of
the hill we have a startling unexpected discovery.
Quietly nestled among the oak trees, the single spire of a long
bracted orchid reigns. Upon
close observation of its light green alternate flowers, shades of yellow
and lavender appear. We are
in awe. What secret treasures our Creator has given us.
We come to a
clearing. It is a rocky
ledge overlooking the scenic Root River valley.
We spot our car far below and wonder how we were able to ascend
such a height. A third
ecosystem yields wood anemone, prairie smoke, a sedge, blue-eyed grass,
hoary puccoon, and numerous pasque flowers.
We now know why Buffalo Bill Cody and Dr. Powell held powwows
with the Indians at this location each spring.
The early spring blooming pasque flower was an Indian sacred sign
of rebirth and renewal.
After lunch we
drive to the Big Woods to experience the majestic amethyst shooting
stars on the drip line of an east facing limestone ledge.
The huge yellow trout lilies dot the forest floor.
Our finale is the discovery of thirty showy orchis at the forest
edge. We are exhausted and despite a few scratches from gooseberry
thorns are overwhelmed with the experience of the day.
Truly “our cups overflow”.
Wildflowers in Nebraska
· During a moist April, a valley near the teepee camp at Platte River State Park is carpeted with Dutchman’s breeches.
In April, paths from the
Pioneer Blvd. entrance to Wilderness Park are loaded with white trout
In July, Wachiska Audubon
Dieken Prairie near Bennett has gorgeous multicolored prairie phlox.
In September, Wachiska
Audubon Wulf Prairie near Eagle has downy gentian blooming.
June 11, 2005)