A Woodland Parade

The forest wakes up with a procession of flowers.


May 1, 2022 -- May Day :: Wildflowers


The woodland awakes with a parade of wildflowers. The procession marks the progress of the season. Right now, white trilliums and bright-yellow wood poppies make their brief spring-time appearances in the eastern deciduous forests of North America.

Celandine poppies thrive in a healthy forest.

Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), known as wood poppy, is one of only two native members of the poppy family east of the Rocky Mountains. Its cousin, Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), just finished blooming and now rests until next spring.


Like its cousin, Celandine poppy has bright yellow to orange sap in its stems that Native Americans used for dyes. Both ephemeral flowers thrive in the moist soils of the deciduous woodlands. And both are considered threatened or endangered because of habitat loss and the encroachment of invasive, non-native plants like garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).


Mary and I hike the intimate trails in our favorite forest several times every spring starting in late March. This allows us to keep tabs on which plants are popping up when. These visits also help us watch for our herbaceous nemesis -- garlic mustard. It's an aggressive plant that was abundant around the woodland's edge when we first explored the preserve 20 years ago.


Each year since then, we start and end our walks by pulling up every invader we could find. We've seen a decline in its population over the years along our favorite trailheads. I found only one plant this year where once there were dozens.


We always keep a watchful eye for garlic mustard seedlings, even if we've reigned in the weed. It's a biennial plant. It is only vegetative the first year. Then it comes back the second year with robust stems and leaves and prolific clusters of flowers. At the end of the second season, the plant dies. But its abundant seeds will sprout next year or may lie dormant for a year or two.


No matter how many noxious weeds Mary and I remove from the forest's edge, we still make enough time to soak in the seasonal procession of native wildflowers. We never let this parade pass us by.


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