Stages of Spring, 2020
While shops, schools, and museums shut down for safety from March to May amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, the woods of Driftless Wisconsin came alive in their usual burst of spring color. This photo gallery looks back at the emergence of spring wildflowers week-by-week.
For another perspective on spring in the Driftless Area, don’t miss the nature walk video series from B&E’s Trees on YouTube:     . They’re full of interesting information on Wisconsin’s spring ephermals.
Fragile points of color, the first flowers in April rise only slightly from the bed of last year’s decay. Bloodroot, hepatica, and dutchman’s breeches announce the new season throughout much of the woods. The marsh marigolds cluster only around a well-watered natural spring.
As April turns to May, whole stretches of the woods are carpeted with pink-and-white spring beauty. Tree leaves are beginning to bud, but the canopy is still wide open for sunshine to reach the forest floor. Both rue and wood anemones are widespread, and ferns are uncurling from their fiddleheads.
A mere week has passed, but it’s almost another world with so many new flowers in bloom. The trees themselves are taking their turn in the spotlight, with hickories, apples, pears, and plums in blossom.
Not to be outdone, the ground is also bursting with new life. Three forms of violet appear: birdsfoot in the sandy, drier oak clearings, and blue and yellow violets in the more moist woods and meadows.
Rue anemone has proliferated further since last week, and buttercups and jack-in-the-pulpits have entered the scene. The first wild geraniums have blossomed, but most remain unopened. Dandelions and creeping charlie are appearing, to the disgruntlement of lawn-keepers, but the former plant is a delight to foragers. We harvest and roast dandelion roots to prepare a distinctly chocolatey substitute for decaf coffee.
Mid-may is morel mushroom season in Wisconsin. In 2020 this wild delicacy is frustratingly rare, owing to dry weather, perhaps compounded by a late cold snap. This solitary find is left unpicked.
Two new flowers this week include drooping trillium and columbine.
May is nearly over. The trees are in full foliage, and the small flowers of early spring have given way entirely to taller species. Wild geraniums and columbine, found only in isolated clumps in past weeks, are now abundant. Yellow hawkweed stands in clusters below the oak trees. As wild strawberry flowers mature into tiny fruits, it seems spring is turning to summer.