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The Botannaca Blog

Plant Education, Garden Inspiration,

Creative Endeavors, Mostly Wonder...

  • Writer's pictureAnna

Spring Ephemerals

The landscape is changing to green all around us, and the woodland wildflowers have started to bloom. The word ephemeral means lasting a very short time. It is during the next two months that most of these beauties parade in the warm weather as they spring from the ground, bloom, and disappear as the heat of summer comes. All of these plants prefer a moist soil in part shade, and many of them have medicinal value.

Also known as Anemonella thalictroides, this dainty native plant grows 6-9″ and spreads by tuberous rhizomes. Flowers can range from white to pink.

Mayapple has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes including boiling the rhizome (root) and drinking the water to cure stomach aches, or applying it topically to warts.*

Bell-shaped flowers most commonly turn blue but can vary from purple to pink and even white. They sway among the other wildflowers and ring in spring before they disappear back to the ground.

Trout Lily provides a thick ground cover in spring and is one of the first wildflowers to appear. The leaves and bulbs are edible with the later said to have a cucumber-like flavor.*

Trillium cuneatum actually is not native to Wisconsin, but travelled here from states as close as Illinois and as far as South Carolina. You will encounter it along with other members of it’s genus such as Trillium erectum and Trillium luteum.

Dutchman’s Breeches contains several alkaloids that may have effects on the brain and heart. Native Americans and early settlers considered this plant useful for syphilis, skin conditions and as a blood purifier.* It is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory.

Wildflowers are full of tradition and stories passed down from generations, which ones have you heard about?

*  Always confirm the identity and check your source when collecting plants for medicinal or edible purposes. Remember that plants used medicinally are almost always toxic when consumed in large quantities or inappropriately, so forage only after being properly educated. 

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