look in stream beds for the horticultural look-alike
The Iris has been known for centuries. The name comes from the Greek goddess of rainbows. THe "flag" part of the name refers to the long leaves that flutter in the wind. The striping on the "petals" may act as marking to guide pollinators to the center of the flower. Medicines made from iris were some of the most widely used treatments for the Native Americans, treating everything from earaches to heart problems.
8-12 snow white "petals" borne on a leafless stalk
Bloodroot is an early blossom not uncommon in April. Since cool temperatures may limit insect pollinators, bloodroot can self-pollinate taking away that risk. The common name comes from the deep red latex found in the root. Native Americans used this latex for dying cloth, arrow feathers and baskets. The leaves continue to grow until midsummer.
white flowers often found in groups, dancing over three delicate lobed leaves
The False Rue Anemones, often confused with the true rue anenomes and wood anenomes, are some of the earliest flowers to bloom in the spring. Colonies of flowers brighten the forest floor with their small daisy-shaped flowers.
white, 3-petaled flower that turns pink with age
The Great White Trillium is a beautiful showy flower whose name literally means "three parted". The plant has 3 petals, 3 sepals and 3 leaves. The root was used by Native Americans for medicine and a love potion. A superstition says if you pick trillium, it will rain. The trillium is a symbol for modest beauty.
distinctive green flowers with dark red markings
Jack-in-the-Pulpit is found in the low areas of moist woodlands. Flowering from April to June, the stately plants are easy to recognize because of their distinctive flowers. Each plant has one flower that rises between two leaves, each with three pointed oval leaflets. When the flower goes to seed, the stalk carries a showy cluster of bright red berries that stands out on the early autumn forest floor. Native Americans used Jack-in-the-Pulpit for many medicinal purposes including treating sore eyes, headaches, snakebites, ringworm, rheumatism, asthma and other ailments.
bright yellow flowers above shiny dark green leaves put on a spectacular display in April and May
Marsh Marigolds are found mostly in the wet soils of marshes, woodlands and stream edges. There are several beautiful colonies of Marsh Marigolds blooming in Ryerson Woods in May. Indians used the plant to treat colds and in early medecine, it was used to treat dropsy, anemia, convulsions and coughing. The leaves were widely used as greens, but must be thoroughly cooked to destroy a toxic alkaloid in the plant. The yellow flowers, in the buttercup family, were considered a delicacy and were used to make wine.
umbrella-like leaves hide a waxy white flower
Mayapples grow in colonies from underground rhizones. The common name results from the fruit ripening in May. The fruit is edible when ripe, but other parts of the plant are toxic. A drug (podophyllin) produced from Mayapple holds promise in cancer research.
small maroon, 3-petaled flower on 12" - 16" stem
The Prairie Trillium, despite its name, is found in the rich moist soil of the woodlands. Three dark green mottled leaves balance on a strong straight stem. The dark red or purplish petals, sitting in the center of the whorl of leaves, curve inward to form a small three sided dome. Prairie Trillium are often found in groups, rising above the forest floor.
cluster of 3-petaled blue flowers on a 10-30 inch stalk
Spiderwort literally translates "spider plant". Why spiders for a namesake is in dispute; perhaps from the hairy stem or the web-like threads made from the sap. Each flower is very short lived, being open only a few hours in the morning before the petals liquify. The plant was named after John Tradescant, a gardener to King Charles I of England.
pink flowers on a low plant with 2 slender leaves
Spring Beauty is one of the first flowers of the season. They are pollinated by over 100 species of insects. Flowers open only when the sun is shining and may open and close several times in one day. The bulb was prized by Native Americans as an early spring taste treat. Geneticists are interested in spring beauty because of its variable number of chromosomes.
colonies of spotted, 2-leaved plants with white flowers
Trout Lily gets its name from its spotted leaves resembling the spots on a trout. The plant pushes through the soil, blooms, produces seeds and dies back, all before total leaf out of the forest. Trout lily may reporoduce by seed and vegetatively and is found in large colonies up to 300 years old. Once used as a cure for hiccups, this plant was also used by Roman soldiers as a cure for foot sores and corns.
purplish cup-shaped flower with 3 pointed lobes
Wild Ginger gets its name from the ginger-like odor and flavor of its root and stem. The low flowers are pollinated by slugs and beetles that frequent shaded places. Carefully separate the heart-shaped cluster of leaves to find these hidden jewels. Potowatomi Indians used the root to season food.
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