Updated: Jun 10, 2020
A long walk in the woods clears the mind, calms the soul, and gives solace to troubled hearts. During these turbulent times, reminders of the joy and beauty the world offers are precious gems. The power and elegance of nature are on display for us to draw strength from every day. Wildflowers, cheerfully radiating their splendor, remind us that life is delightful, diverse, and precious. The next time you are on a hike, look for these exceptional jewels of the forest.
Canadian Lily (Lilium canadense)
Tall, stately, and proud, the Canadian lily is impossible to miss or ignore. The bright yellow blooms rise two to four feet above the ground, dramatic and elegant. Large bell-shaped flowers nod downwards, seemingly bashful to display their full brilliance all at once. When you look underneath, the throat is just as striking, darkly speckled with long yellow stamens capped by burgundy anther tips. Canadian lilies are pollinated almost exclusively by ruby-throated hummingbirds, so keep an eye out for them too. A native wildflower, Canadian lilies also bloom in brilliant orange and red.
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Creating a striking contrast between dark-green evergreen leaves and delicate, light pink flowers, the mountain laurel is a joy to discover. These plants bloom in bountiful outward-facing clusters, like a group of sweet friends all gathering to greet you at the same time. Each five-sided cup-shaped flower exhibits smaller contrasting markings in a darker pink, which only enhance its delicate appearance. Showy and fragrant, the blooms typically last for weeks. Even when not in bloom, the mountain laurel is impressive with gnarled red-brown trunks and an abundance of glossy green foliage.
Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
This elusive wildflower may evade you at first, but don't stop looking. Finding a jack in the pulpit is a special treat, especially since it seems to like to hide. These flowers wear hoodies- a sheath-shaped leaf structure called a spathe, or "pulpit," that folds over the flower. On the inside, the hoods have striking deep-maroon and light-green stipes. On the outside, they are entirely light-green, making them difficult to see. Jack, in the pulpits blend into the environment like reluctant stars trying to fade into the background. Thankfully, they grow quite tall, averaging between 1-2' high, which gives the seeker a better chance at finding them.
Heartleaf Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Spikes of small star-shaped white flowers stand tall and erect over huge dark-green heart-shaped leaves, creating a wildflower spectacle when they are in bloom. The lobed leaves create a broad 1-2' base, noticeable on their own even before they flower. Each leaf-less stem flaunts multiples of the delicate flowers, rising to 12" above the leaves. The flowers have long white stamens that give them an airy or foamy appearance and are how they got their common name. A mass planting of these flowers looks like swaths of white-foam drifting through the woods.
Yellow-Star Grass (Hypoxis hirsuta)
Don't overlook these bright, sunny little flower gems. Yellow-star grass flowers are minuscule, but their sunny disposition is boundless. When not in bloom, this wildflower looks insignificant, like a few blades of lackluster grass. In the spring, however, each clump of leaves produces several brilliant yellow six-petaled star-shaped flowers. Many native bees love these petite flowers, including mason bees, halictid bees, and little carpenter bees. Yellow-star grass is listed as endangered in New Hampshire and possibly eradicated in Maine. Their resemblance to grass means that they get pulled up and removed without discretion. Treasure these flowers when you see them!
We'd love to hear about the wildflowers you encounter on your walks. The Hemlock Overlook Regional Trail is one of our favorite hiking places for wildflowers. Do you have a favorite place to observe them?
And, please remember, enjoy these beauties where they are; do not pick them. Wildflowers support entire ecosystems, and their removal disrupts Mother Nature's work.
Take a picture; it'll keep much longer.
Blog by Jenny Dunklee, Senior Plant Expert, BloomCatch