In spring the native Wisconsin wildflowers at the Speckled Hen Inn are amazing. The property has a wide range of growing conditions from the hillside covered with oak, hickory and hackberry trees to the marshy grasslands that border the banks of Starkweather Creek. Spring has finally arrived in Madison Wisconsin so the snow is slowly melting into the earth and soon we will be marveling at how quickly things seem to pop up.
One of the very first wildflowers we expect to see are the Bloodroots. I’ll notice little clusters of white flowers on the hillside in the wooded areas. If you break the stem on the flower, you will see where it gets it’s name. The red-orange sap is quite bright. There is a nice cluster of these that are really happy to be a part of one of the flower beds just outside my office window. The soil must be pretty fertile there because these are always quite a bit larger than the ones up in the woods. The flowers open fully on a sunny day and close at night or if it is really cloudy. Sometimes I will notice tiny little black bees collecting the pollen from the flowers. The length of time that the flowers last depends largely on the weather. If it is cool, they will stick around for a couple of weeks. The clusters of leaves last much longer. But, eventually they just disappear into the overall carpet of green.
The next wildflowers we will notice come quickly. Suddenly we will notice Spring Beauties, May Apples, Bell Wort, and Jack in the Pulpits popping up everywhere in the woods.
The May apples will look like little green thumbs poking up out of the ground when we first notice them and than before you know it you will notice and entire bed of little green umbrellas. Under the umbrella there will be a single white flower that will develop into the “apple”. Large areas of the woodland floor are covered with patches of these plants.
Not all of our wildflowers are welcome even though they may be pretty. We have to battle the invasion of garlic mustard and dame’s rocket just like most of our neighbors. We try to encourage the native wildflowers to flourish and ban the non-native flowers that threaten to overtake the native guys. It is a never ending battle although every year we hake a little progress.
The very first wildflowers we discovered on the property are the State Wildflower of Wisconsin. Soon after we purchased the land we were exploring the areas along the un-named creek and found several clusters of wild violets. We have, since that time, found them all over the property. The seem to have a pretty good tolerance for a wide variety of growing conditions because we find them in the dry shade on our wooded hillside and also mixed with the wild sedges along the creeks. They thrive in my rock garden.