Dirt on Gardening

Native flowers in the Ozarks are abundant. If you see flowers growing in a garden, there are just as many growing in our natural wild places. The spring is probably the best time to get into the woods to really enjoy and see a variety of native blossoms.

In April and early May the brushy undergrowth in the woods has not obscured the many different flowering plants that are nestled on the forest floor. Here’s some of what you may find in the woods should you take a walk in the next few weeks:

Probably the most numerous and easy to find of all the spring wild flowers are violets. Wild violets are low growing plants that first emerge with flowers that are approximately one inch across; they range from white to purple to yellow. “Yellow violet” and “common violet” are the common names for three of the wild violets that have heart shaped leaves. “Johnny-jump-up” is the name for the purple violet with irregularly scalloped leaves. All are members of the Violaceae family.

Commonly known as a “dog-tooth violet,” but actually a member of the Liliaceae family is a white flower with petals that curve backward away from yellow pistils and stamens. Dog-tooth violets only have two leaves at the base of the plant. They are hard to miss because they are dark green with irregular brown splotches. These lilies grow in large underground colonies from corms.

Also a member of the Liliaceae family is a flower commonly referred to as “trillium” or “wake robin.” This flower ranges in color from brown to greenish yellow, but the plant itself stands out. Three dark green leaves in a whorl are at the top of a bare stalk eight to 12 inches in height. The flower sits in the middle of the three leaves.

A native flower that I can’t look at enough is the “Jack-in-the-pulpit,” a member of the Araceae family. Above two or three nondescript green leaves is a foot to foot and half long stem has a green tube that extends into a canopy over the inside of the tube. Inside the flower tube or “pulpit” is “Preacher Jack.” The inside of the flower is brown and green striped and is very striking to look at.

These are just a few of the many wildflowers that are blooming right now in our woods.

Should you decide to explore our native flowers you may want to take along a field guide to assist in identifying flowers and plants. I recommend Missouri Wild Flowers, a Missouri Department of Conservation publication by Edgar Denison. The latest edition of the book is organized by flower color, which makes it very simple to use. Notable native tree and shrub blossoms are also part of the book’s flower collection.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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