Beginner’s Guide to Spring Wildflowers in the Woodland Walk

white trillium

Christine Story, the Director at the time, realized that no sooner had she planted something than the deer devoured it. It was as if the deer were following her and unplanting everything she planted, so a seven-foot tall mesh “invisible fence” was erected.  Since then, every spring has offered an increasingly generous show of wildflowers.

One of the most beloved native wildflowers, Trillium, is found blooming in the Woodland Walk in May.

Trillium erectum  has many common names, such as purple trillium, stinking Benjamin (the flowers have a fetid odor which indicates they are pollinated by flies), or wake-robin. It is particularly gratifying to find in large numbers since it is so slow to develop, taking about seven years from seed to flowering plant. Trillium grow in moist, acid soil in light shade. They are easy to identify if you remember that “tri” in Trillium means three, and Trillium have three leaves, three petals, and three sepals.

Another easy to recognize flower in the Woodland Walk is Arisaema triphyllum, commonly called Jack-in-the-pulpit.  Each plant has one or two long stemmed, three-part leaves (hence triphyllum) and a somewhat shorter stem that culminates in a hood, or spathe, which protects the rod-shapedcluster of tiny flowers (the spadix). On the female plants, the spadix will have very showy red berries in the fall. Arisaema grow in moist, humus rich soil in full sun to part shade.

A third spring wildflower found in relative abundance at the Arboretum is Erythronium americanum, which just about everyone calls trout lily or dog’s tooth violet. The attractive strap shaped leaves, mottled burgundy, look like the markings on brook trout, and the flower does bloom about the time the trout fishing season begins. These slow growing spring ephemerals are in the Lily family, which means that deer are fond of them. They grow in moist shaded woods. The yellow six-part flower is about one inch, and is held four to ten inches above the ground.

All these lovely spring blooms, found mostly along the upper path in the Woodland Walk, can be enjoyed late April through mid-May.

trout lillies