Watch for wildflowers on spring walks
University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Rhonda Ferree said that spring walks are an enjoyable time to see woodland wildflowers.
A common woodland wildflower is the spring beauty, a low plant with loose clusters of pink or whitish flowers striped with dark pink. These flowers bloom from March to May in moist woods and clearings.
“At my former residence near Champaign, I had beautiful large patches of these across the lawn,” she said.
A more noticeable native wildflower is Virginia bluebell, an 8- to 24-inch plant with smooth gray-green leaves and nodding clusters of light blue trumpet-shaped flowers. The individual flowers start as pink buds and open to about 1 inch long. Virginia bluebells flower from March to June in moist woods, and it is also a popular shade garden plant.
Several flowers from the poppy family have spectacular spring showings: Dutchman’s breeches, Corydalis and bloodroot.
“Dutchman’s breeches and Corydalis have delicate, fern-like leaves and grow to about a foot tall,” she said. “Dutchman’s breeches are more common. The name comes from the clusters of fragrant, white, pantaloon-shaped flowers.”
Two more woodland flowers you are sure to see are wild blue phlox and wild geranium. Wild blue phlox has loose clusters of slightly fragrant light blue flowers above creeping oval leaves. Also called wild sweet william, it will bloom from April to June.
“I remember seeing these as a child while walking central Illinois woods with my dad,” Ferree said.
Wild geranium is easily recognized by its typical geranium leaves and loose clusters of lavender flowers. It grows 1 to 2 feet tall and is found from April to June.
“Take lots of pictures, but please leave the wildflowers,” Ferree said.
“Although the ones mentioned here are numerous, some of our wildflowers are becoming rare. Leaving them ensures that they’ll remain for others to see in the future.”