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Nature’s Best By Elma Chapman - Wildflowers


April showers bring April flowers! You don’t have to wait until May to see them. In fact, you’ve probably already missed some, because many of them only bloom for a few days and are already finished. One week ago Saturday I attended the wildflower walk at Maple Wood and the flowers there were just getting started. We found trout lilies with buds, trillium with buds, a few spring beauties (that’s the name of a wildflower, not just poetry on my part), some Dutchman’s breeches, some bloodroot, and lots of cut-leaf toothwort.

Sunday there was a wildflower walk along part of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, just east of CR 43 between Shipshewana and Middlebury. We walked about ½ mile and saw a few of the same flowers, but the area originally planned for the walk was in the section of trail that is closed due to construction at the terminus in Middlebury, and the part we walked didn’t have the profusion of flowers that the group leader, John Smith, had seen in previous years. The fact that most of the flowers are about two weeks behind their usual blooming time didn’t help, either. To make up for the lack of blossoms there, he led a car caravan to the Culp Nature Preserve, an ACRES Land Trust property in LaGrange County. There we found many, many wildflowers in bloom. The trail was muddy with lots of ups and downs, but the wildflowers made up for the difficulty. We found blue cohosh blooming, trout lilies in bloom, lots of Dutchman’s breeches, toothwort, hepatica, bloodroot, anemones, wild ramps (tasty!) and spring beauties. May apples were just starting to push up through the soil. John also pointed out the leaves and a seed stalk from last year of a member of the orchid family, the showy orchis. Yes, wild orchids do grow in Indiana!

This past Saturday was the Wildflower Walk and Brunch held at the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historical Site in Rome City. The cabin that Gene built 100 years ago is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday and is well worth the admission price, but there’s no charge to roam the grounds, and the wildflowers were spectacular Saturday. (I was there as a volunteer helping with the brunch.) Gene named her cabin “The Cabin in Wildflower Woods” and the name was and is certainly appropriate. Dutchman’s breeches and trout lilies were blooming prolifically, as were many other wild flowers.

To find these wildflowers you need to find an area that has been undisturbed. Roadsides occasionally have a few wildflowers to enjoy, but often roadsides are sprayed by the road commissions, or nearby agricultural practices might inhibit their growth. Along the Pumpkinvine is definitely not undisturbed, first by the railroad and then by the paving of the trail, but in parts that are surrounded by woods the wildflowers have been able to spread back along the trail from the woods. Where there are plowed fields, the wildflowers are less likely to be able to return.

Enjoy the warmer weather as it returns and get out into the woods and look for the many gifts from Mother Nature. And speaking of mothers, a wildflower walk at a local park would be a terrific way to celebrate Mother’s Day next month!