Photos from 2021

There aren't so many photos from this season as for 2021, so we'll show them all on one page.  Now on reflection I think I know why there are not so many;  it was a very dry season, so often I was too busy hand watering plants to take time or even think about photography.  In any case here are the pics.

Biggest T. nivale plant
Here is my largest Trillium nivale (snow trillium) plant in full bloom on April 5.  That's relatively early for here.  It's located under a bur oak, which is one of the last trees to leaf out, so this plant gets blasted with full sun for several weeks.  The plant doesn't seem to mind, and it's probably my best plant for seed production.  If I plucked off spent blossoms instead of keeping the plant in reproductive slavery, it might grow into an even larger clump, but I prefer having the seeds for starting new plantations.  T. nivale self seeds readily here, but always into other cultivated areas.  I've never found a spontaneous seedling in my woods, probably because there is too much competition there.  

Corydalis ornata
Here are two non-native very early spring ephemerals: Corydalis ornata left and Corydalis turtschaninovii right.

I have long admired the ethereal blues of some of the Chinese Corydalis species, hybrids and cultivars of which are readily available in the U.S. such as Corydalis 'Blue Heron.'  Alas, these plants are not hardy in most of the northern U.S., and certainly not here in northern Minnesota.  Fortunately there are Siberian plants with similar coloration, and with the help of my late German friend Gerhard, I was able to purchase such plants from a German nursery.  The plants shown here are two such species, and they seem quite well adapted to our Minnesota climate.

I really miss my friend Gerhard, who died in summer 2022.  He and I corresponded at length and exchanged many plants.
Corydalis turtschaninovii

Bloodroot under Elm
Back to natives.  We're up to May 2 now, and bloodroot is in full bloom (left), and spring beauty (right) is getting a good start.  The blood root at left is under a large American elm, whose trunk is partially shown in the upper left.  At the time of the photo the elm was dying of Dutch elm disease.  It will be interesting to see how the bloodroot and other wildflowers do without the shade of this magnificent tree.  I think the bloodroot will be OK, but I'm concerned about some of the others.
Claytonia virginica

Hepatica and Polemonium
We're up to May 8 now, and lots of things are blooming.  At left Hepatica acutiloba is in full bloom while Polemonium reptans, Jacob's ladder, is not quite there yet but promises a later display.  Dicentra cucullaria, Dutchman's breeches at right is at its peak.  The lighter green leaves at lower right of the breeches are rapidly growing shoots of Collinsia verna.
Dicentra cucullaria

Corydalis buschii
Corydalis buschii (left) is another Russian species that is hardy here.

At right is my largest Erythronium americanum having eight flowers.  Count 'em!

Erythronium americanum

Uvularia grandiflora
Uvularia grandiflora, great bellwort or merrybells, (left) is great as a  specimen plant, but it often occurs as nearly a groundcover in hardware forests around here.

At right is a Trillium grandiflorum forma roseum plant that my friend Dan in Virginia sent me.  The unique attribute of this plant is that the flowers open pink.  Most T. grandiflorum flowers turn pink with age, but f. roseum flowers open pink.  Note the usual T. grandiflorum with white flowers in the background.

Trillium grandiflorum f. roseum

Here is a planting of Primula fassettii, formerly Dodecatheon amethystinum, plants that I raised from seed.  At least the common name of the plant, amethyst shooting star, has not changed.  When I was in grade school, I was taught that you should use the scientific name for a species because organisms have only one scientific name but often multiple common names.  My teachers must be rolling over in their graves from all the recent taxonomic changes.  What do teachers tell kids about scientific names now?

Amethyst shooting stars

I thought you might appreciate a closeup of the nicely colored plant at the right end in the above photo.  The color of shooting star flowers, like that of many plants, varies considerably from year to year and seems to depend on environmental factors such as temperature and the amount of sunlight the plant receives as well as genetics.  Shooting star flowers are buzz-pollinated by our native bumblebees.
Amethyst shooting star closeup

Bluebells and Phlox
It's May 20 now and Virginia bluebells and woodland phlox are blooming,...

...and so are big trilliums.  Here we have Trillium grandiflorum, Uvularia grandiflora, and our ubiquitous yellow Viola pubescens.
Trillium grandiflorum and Merrybells

Trillium grandiflorum Patch
Trillium grandiflorum is at its peak now.  This is a nice patch, but it's threatened by our aggressive ostrich fern, and I keep having to dig them out, or at least I try to.

One of my nicest Trillium grandiflorum clumps:

Nice T. grandiflorum Clump

Trillium flexipes & T. grandiflorum
Trillium flexipes (left) is even bigger than T. grandiflorum.  Note how T. flexipes towers over the white trillium in the background.  T. flexipes is native to Minnesota, but not to Itasca County, where I live.

Dicentra eximia or fringed bleeding heart (right) is not even native to Minnesota.  It's range is the Appalachian Mountains, where the plant thrives on rocky ledges.  I continue to have trouble keeping this plant alive for more than a few seasons.  It grows into attractive clumps like this but then fades away after several years.  Fortunately it seeds around before it dies, so usually I have a supply of new plants, but the species is supposedly long lived, and I wish it were for me.
Dicentra eximia

Collinsia verna or spring blue-eyed Mary is another great plant not native to Minnesota, but it is native to much of the Midwest including our neighboring states of Iowa and Wisconsin.  The species is endangered in New York and Tennessee and has been extirpated from Canada.  The plant is a winter annual, which means that seed that is shed in June lies dormant in or on the soil all summer then germinates in the fall often after the first frost.  The tiny two- or tree-leaved seedlings remain green all winter then resume growth when warm temperatures return in the spring.  To my mind one of the most pleasant aspects of this plant is the fall germination, which means I can go out and search for newly emerging seedlings at the time most of my other wildflowers are dying off for the season.  Because the approach of fall and winter depresses me, I relish the cheer of finding the new little green plants.  While this plant isn't quite native here, our native bumblebees welcome it by feeding extensively.

Big Collinsia verna patch

Here is the result of an interesting experiment I tried.  I sowed seed of our native Polygala paucifolia or gaywings in a bed of sandy soil that I created for twinflower.   Previously I had purchased seedlings of the twinflower from Nordic Natives nursery in Minnesota.  Yes, I said seedlings;  the nursery actually propagated these twinflower plantlets from seed, not cuttings as is usually done.  The twinflower seedlings grew and spread widely over the sandy bed to make a very pleasing patch.  Some of the Polygala seeds germinated and grew into flowering plants that are now spreading among the twinflower as you see below.

Polygala paucifolia among twinflower

And here is my original bed of Polygala paucifolia from which I collected the seed to sow in the twinflower patch above.  The plants to start this original bed were sent to me by a friend in Wisconsin, who dug them out of his yard.

Original Polygala paucifolia bed

Jack in the Pulpit by Garage
At left is a small patch of Jack-in-the-pulpit that appeared as volunteer seedlings in a damp area next to our garage.  That area is damp because lazy Bill hasn't bothered to clean the garage gutters and the result is an unplanned rain garden.  I just realized that although Jack-in-the-pulpit is a favorite wildflower for many people, I have taken relatively few photos, probably because the plant is so common here that I tend to take it for granted.  Having realized my neglect, I'll plan to take more photos in the future.

I don't take Galearis spectabilis, showy orchis, for granted!  It's one of my favorite plants, the first native orchid I ever found and identified as a kid in Indiana.  It's not native here in Itasca County but does occur in northern Minnesota and is fairly common in southern Minnesota.  My plants have come from several sources: gifts from two different friends and purchases from Gardens of the Blue Ridge.  In the photo at right several Collinsia verna plants are seen blooming behind the orchids.
Showy orchis

Here's another showy orchis:

Showy orchis with Collinsia in the background

I can't help myself!  Here is another.  Notice that in these plants the lip of the flower as well as the hood is lavender.  The usual coloration in the species is for the hood to be colored and the lip white.

Showy orchis closeup

Northern Bluebells Patch
This is our wonderful native northern bluebells, Mertensia paniculata.  I say "wonderful" because not only do they have an abundance of little bright blue flowers, but unlike Virginia bluebells, the green leaves of our northern plant remain after the flowers and continue to look good all summer.  Our northern species seeds around just as freely here as does Virginia bluebells.

Northern Bluebell Flowers

Closer Shot of M. paniculata Flowers
An even closer shot of northern bluebell flowers at left.

Here's a real mystery.  At right is a pot of Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin, the small-flowered yellow lady's-slipper that I grew from seed of Vermont provenance.  Why do the lips of the flowers have red blotches?  I don't know and apparently no one else does either.  I've seen photos of wild plants with these blotches from far western Minnesota.  The plants in the pot at right have bloomed for several years and have never shown the blotches before.  If you have an explanation, not just a guess, please tell me.

Cyp. makasin with Red Patches

It's June 8, and Cypripediium acaule is in full bloom in our bog.  The great population of these pink lady's-slippers in our 10-acre bog is one of the main reasons I was eager to buy our homestead.  How many can you count in this photo?

Cyp. acaule in Our Bog

By mid-July our native Lilium michiganense are blooming, and my biggest plant is having a great year:

Largest Michigan Lily

Grape Fern Plant
Several years ago two Botrychium plants showed up as volunteers along the edge of one of my lady's-slipper beds.  I know very little about Botrychium, but I am guessing that this is B. matricariifolium as that is one of the most common species in Minnesota.  The fruiting part of the leaf is called the sporophore, and the little spherical spore cases are called sporangia.
Grape Fern Sporophore

Epipactis helleborine This is a volunteer I wish I didn't have. When we moved to Minnesota in 1997, there was only one record of this Eurasian orchid, Epipactis helleborine, in Minnesota and none from this part of the state.  I happened to find several in a high quality hardwood forest on iron mining company land.  I collected a couple plants and gave them to the Olga Lakela Herbarium at the University of Minnesota Duluth.  In the intervening years the orchid grew to considerable abundance on that mining company land, and alas, three or four years ago, the plant showed up in a hardwood patch on county land just across the highway from our property.  With the plant in this photo, the species has now invaded my yard.  After snapping this photo, I ripped the plant out.  Actually one must be careful to dig out the rhizome;  otherwise, the plant will just reappear.  Last time I was in New England, circa 2000, I found the plant growing all over the forests of Vermont.  This weedy orchid is now a pest here because it takes up space in high quality woodland habitat that could be occupied by native wildflowers.  Moreover, I find it's a terrible distraction because when seen out of the corner of my eye, the foliage somewhat resembles that of our native Cypripedium orchids.

To end on a happier note, both Lobelia cardinalis and L. siphilitica seem happy here.  Though native to Minnesota, L. cardinalis does not get this far north.  The cardinal flower has shown up as a volunteer here multiple times, and I suspect the seeds must have arrived stowed away in the soil of other nursery plants that I have purchased from time to time.  The plant dies back each fall but offsets are left that can grow into new plants.  I have read conflicting advice about how to perpetuate the plant from these offsets.  Some authors say to mulch them for protection in cold climates, and other gardeners recommend clearing the plantlets of debris so they can photosynthesize and grow on warmer fall and spring days.  I have tried both approaches with plants that have appeared from time to time, and both methods failed.  By the time this latest plant showed up down by the artificial pond in the yard, I assumed it would die and disappear over the winter, and so I didn't bother to help in any way.  The plant has now returned after two winters!

The great blue lobelia is native here and is a very easy plant to grow and returns every year with no help from me.

Lobelias siphilitica & cardinalis

For 2020 flower photos click here.