Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Bloodroot on north slope

Hundreds of Bloodroot covering a north-facing slope in Bliss Woods Forest Preserve in Aurora, IL.  4/9/05.  Absolutely stunning!

Sunday, 70; Monday, 34; Wednesday, 50; snow today–not unusual for April in the Chicago area, but the spring flowers are not blooming in their normal sequence.  2 clumps of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) started out as the first to bloom in my shade garden, then gave up after only a day or two; and feebly started to push out a few leaves, as of yet, unsuccessful.  Another small clump has emerged, along with a couple of Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucularia)–all much smaller than usual.   There’s still, hopefully, more to come; but in the meantime, the big flouncy, foreign shrubs–magnolia and forsythia–and the larger Dutch bulbs–daffodils and tulips– have burst into ravishing bloom, completely overshadowing the little early bulbs.

So here is what I am missing–maybe they are blooming near you.


Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acuiloba) is usually the first flower to bloom in early March.  The leafless stems push their way up through last years remaining, 3-lobed, now burgundy leaves.  Potawatomi Park in St. Charles  4/1/2010.

spring Beauty 2

Or Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) could be first. The pink star flowers cover a rounded clump of shiny leaves, 6-8” tall and around.  Swink and Wilhelm declare it to be one of the most abundant spring wildflowers in our woodlands.  But, to my dismay, I have never grown them at my house–the plants don’t seem to be readily available at nurseries.


The gold-centered. white-petaled open stars of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) appear briefly in the open spring sunshine of woodlands, sometimes as early as late March, their stems wrapped in loosely furled. large-lobed, kidney-shaped leaves  As the flowers shatter, the leaves unfold, making a pretty groundcover


It is followed closely by Dutchman’s Breeches  and the Double Bloodroot.

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) open in April, a few days after the Bloodroot.  Aptly named, upside-down pantaloons hang from arched stems that rise above bluish-green fringed leaves.  Dutchman's Breeches 3These, too, are ephemeral: the leaves disappear once the flowers have set seed.  Not as fragile as the Bloodroot, the blossoms of Dutchman’s Breeches will sometimes last into the month of May.

I’m going to repeat what I said lst year about the Double  Bloodroot. They haven’t come up yet, but I’m still hoping.  It comes into bloom after the single-petaled species Bloodroot and flowers for a longer time.    It reproductive parts became petals; therefore, it does not produce any seed–it only increases by rhizomes.

It was discovered  in 1916 by a Mr. Guido von Webem within a clump of Sanguinaria canadensis on his property in Dayton, Ohio.  In 1919, he divided the plant, sending divisions to the Arnold Arboretum and to a Mr. Henry Teuscher, Director of the Montreal Botanic Garden.  The original plant and the Arnold Arboretum plant both perished, but the Montreal specimen lived on, and it is from this plant from which all the current plants are descended.

It’s crucial that all these woodland wildflowers be integrated with sedges.  Penn Sedge is the most common woodland sedge.

penn sedge

It forms light green, grassy patches less than 1‘ tall

carex sprengellii 3

Carex sprengellii is another early sedge, classified as a moisture-loving wood sedge; but in my experience it grows anywhere.  Here it is between the stones on my patio today.  It grows to the size and shape of Prairie Dropseed.




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