Flowery Spring Show is Underway

An Amazing Natural Spectacle Unfolds Each Year

|  STORY BY CINDY CAIN  |

Each year an amazing natural spectacle unfolds in the forest preserves of Will County.

Even while snow is still on the ground, plants that have been biding their time all winter long will push through the soil seeking sunlight and a new season of growth.

This dance has already begun with the odd looking skunk cabbage poking through the cold and ice. Harbinger of spring, a plant with delicate white flowers, was not far behind.

These are among the first wildflowers, or ephemerals, that will populate the preserves in different stages throughout spring and early summer.

The Forest Preserve District will be spying on these sprouts and posting photos to its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts throughout the season.

While exact dates for certain flowers to appear are hard to predict because of fluctuating weather, here is a quick rundown on what you can expect to see popping up during the next few months in the preserves of Will County:

Spring Beauty

An abundant, low-growing woodland flower with white or pink-white flowers with deep pink stripes running the length of the five petals.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
 

Bloodroot

A fragile white flower with deeply lobed and heavily veined leaves. One good wind or rain is enough to cause the plant’s petals to drop.

(Photo by Sue Scimeca)

Virginia Bluebells

Pink buds open into trumpet-shaped light blue flowers, but its stems are weak and watery and the blooms quickly die back to the ground after blooming.

(Photo by Jim Kloss)

Dutchman's Breeches

White blooms resemble a pair of pants or “breeches.” The pant-shaped flowers hang upside down from an arching flower stalk.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

False Rue Anemone

Small, half-inch flowers with five petal-like sepals and showy yellow stamens. It’s called false rue anemone because the white flower is almost indistinguishable from the native rue anemone.

(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

Trillium

Large-flowered, prairie and toadshade trillium plants can be found in the preserves. Each plant features flower parts and leaves in groups of three. Large-flowered trillium plants have white flowers; prairie trillium plants feature mottled leaves and red-purple flowers; and toadshade trillium has a single, foul smelling, stalkless flower, usually deep maroon, but sometimes green or yellow.

(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

White Trout Lily

Elliptical-shaped leaves and white flowers that hang down from the end of a bare stalk, their petals curving back away from the bright yellow stamens.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Wild Geranium

Rose-purple flowers, but the color can vary due to temperature fluctuations and their exposure to sunlight.

(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

Woodland Phlox

Slightly fragrant lilac/rose/blue flowers with five notched, petal-like lobes that appear in loose clusters at the tips of hairy, sticky stems.

(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

The word ephemeral means “short-lived,” so keep an eye out for these beauties while you can. They’ll flower during a two-month time span when there are few leaves on the trees to block out the sun. Bloom times typically begin in March or April and end in May or early June.
 
If you want to learn more about native wildflowers and how to identify them, visit the University of Illinois Extension’s wildflower directory.
 
(Lead image by Glenn P. Knoblock)