Northland Nature: Various violets flower all spring
Retired teacher Larry Weber, of Barnum, is the author of “Butterflies of the North Woods" and “Spiders of the North Woods," among other books. Reach him via Katie Rohman at email@example.com.
The long wait to see the spring woods open up and produce new wildflowers was worth it. Quickly, as snow melted, the next phase began on the same forest floor that was covered by a snowpack lasting more than five months. Greening began rapidly with the snow demise. It was amazing how quickly wild leek (ramps) did their growth of several inches of leaves above the soil.
Even though these plants do not flower until the shaded time of summer, they are so quick to turn the area beneath deciduous trees into a green growth.
Almost as fast, the new batch of spring wildflowers made their appearance. Walking here in the first half of May was worth the winter wait and made us forget the record-setting snow.
During a recent walk, I noted about a dozen kinds in bloom. (Many of the spring woodland flowers open petals best on clear days.) During this sunny time, I found hepatica, bloodroot, spring beauty, wild ginger, Dutchman’s breeches, toothwort, wood anemone, large-flower trillium, nodding trillium, large-flower bellwort, sessile bellwort (wild oats) and trout-lilies, both white and yellow. Marsh marigolds also glowed from nearby wetlands. (First flower to bloom was hepatica, as it is every year.)
Among these leafy plants of wildflowers on the forest floor, there were also fiddleheads. The two kinds I found easiest were those of interrupted ferns and ostrich ferns, and a couple kinds of fungi: scarlet cup fungus and false morel.
Spring flowers are often called ephemerals, meaning that they live a short life. But only a few of these vernal flora are true ephemerals: trout-lilies, spring beauty, bloodroot and Dutchman’s breeches, completely gone by summer.
Among these flowers was a scattering of another diverse plant: violets.
Violets are not only diverse in their species and flowering time, but also in their colors. With some searching, we can find and identify about 10 kinds of violets in the region. They vary in having stems with branching leaves or not and they grow in different habitats. Though many have heart-shaped leaves, there are a good number with leaves broad, branched or lance-shaped and some deeply-cut leaf ones, such as birdsfoot violets and wild pansies.
They may bloom early or late, but all are spring plants. Identification of violets can be difficult, and so, keeping it simple, we can tell three groups by color of their five petals: purple, white and yellow.
It would seem that with a name like violets, most would be purple. For our area, purple violets are maybe the most common. Though there are several species, downy woods blue violet (Viola sororia) is the one usually found. Later in the season, a plant with spurs on the base of flowers can be found: long spurred violet (Viola selkirkii). Both of these purple violets grow in groups, often with many blooms.
White violets in our region are the very small white violet (Viola macloskeyi), only inches above the ground. (I have noticed that when they grow in lawns a mower can go right over without cutting them.) Later, frequently after the leaves are out on the trees overhead, the larger Canada white violet (Viola canadensis) is common.
Maybe the most obvious violets are the yellow violets (Viola pubescens). Plants grow in large groups and with these showy yellow colors, they last well into June. Regardless of the color petals, all have purple lines on the lower of the five petals.
Not the biggest or most widespread, but violets add much to the springtime colorful flora.