Great Egret

Great Egret

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Colourful May Wildflowers

A few weeks ago I posted about April showers bringing April flowers, of which there are many that show up late in that month. However May seems to have the greatest diversity of flowers, especially in woodlands before the trees leaves get too dominant. The profusion is amazing, especially along some trails. In fact I have had birders tell me that when the birding got a bit slow, they thoroughly enjoyed the abundance of wildflowers.

This first one shown started in April, but May is its normal flowering period, and this population did persist flowering well into May.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Forests with developing heavy canopy have the earliest species. Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) is abundant.
 Less obvious is the Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)

 White flowers, such as this Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza claytoni) don't stand out as much as more colourful ones. This is one you need to watch out for, especially if you venture off a trail, since the developed seeds are black and sharp-pointed and will penetrate clothing and prick you.
A similarly looking white flower is White Baneberry (Actea pachypoda), sometimes known as Doll's-eyes since the white berries with black dots were used by pioneers as eye's for home-made dolls.

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata), sometimes called the pinwheel flower, is plentiful. It is just as often pinkish-purple or white as it is blue.

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), in peak flower in May, should prossibly be called Juneapple, since the little apple fruit seldom occurs until June. Parts of the plant are poisonous.

On one occasion when I was getting ready to photograph some of the wildflowers, I encountered a species I had never seen in Rondeau before: False or American Gromwell (Lithospermum latifolium). In fact until I came across this small clump, it was considered an historical species for Chatham-Kent, and hadn't been seen in Rondeau since the early 1960s. It is nice to update the historical records.

A fairly rare woodland wildflower blooming in May is Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica). There are historical records for Chatham-Kent, but a fabulous colony of them occurs on a private property along the Thames River in Elgin County.

In more open woods, especially where there are lots of oaks and leaf development is slower, are a slightly different mix of wildflowers. Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is widely scattered, and often sought out by hummingbirds which can sometimes be seen hovering beneath the flower with its long bill up into the flower searching for nectar.
 On a very few occasions, you might encounter a pale yellow form of this normally bright orange-red flower.
 Robin's Plantain (Erigeron pulchellus) is quite restricted to sandy/grassy openings of the oak forest.
 False Toadflax (Comandra richardsonii) is another very restricted species, and not nearly as large and colourful as many others.
 Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis) on the other hand is usually quite abundant in these oak forest openings. They may be purplish, as shown in the first image, or yellow, as shown in the following one.

 An abundant member of the Lily family, growing in sandy soils along oak forest edges, is this Starry False Solomon's-seal (Maianthemum stellatum).

Just a few of the more obvious and sometimes less obvious, herbaceous wildflowers to be found in May, with some of them persisting into June. Herbaceous plants aren't the only ones with flowers. Woody plants have them too...some are obvious and some are so diminutive they aren't noticeable unless you look really, really hard for them. Some will be featured in a future post.


  1. Thank you! I've been trying to key out American Gromwell for 2 years with no luck! As you say it's not in my old Peterson's or Audubon so I wasn't sure if it was a native or an alien because the parks I've found it in are a 50/50 mixture of native and introduced species. I'm going to get confirmation from a botanist for my plants but I didn't want to bother them if it was just another nuisance plant. (Mine does look a LOT like the photos online of American Gromwell, so I'm optimistic.)

    1. Hi are quite welcome. I hope your plant is the legitimate native one.

  2. Yes, it was confirmed by the park's "native plant propagation" leader. Needless to say, I'll be keeping an eye out for any garlic mustard trying to muscle it out....thanks again for the id!