Dirt on Gardening

A walk in the woods in the spring can be a rich experience for anyone that enjoys flowers. Besides the many native trees that are in bloom, the Ozark woodlands are also full of wildflowers.

Spring wildflowers are different than the summer wildflowers that show themselves so easily along roadsides and in fields. Spring wildflowers tend to be less showy. They can be tucked away among the leaves that fell the previous autumn. However, spring wildflowers are still worth seeking out. Spring wildflowers tend to exhibit a lot of purple, pink and blue colors rather than the yellow, red and orange colored wildflowers more common in the summer months.

One of my favorite wildflowers is the Trillium sessile, commonly referred to as trillium or wake robin. This member of the lily family is typically found in wooded slopes and bottom lands that have rich, moist soil.

The name Trillium sessile comes from the Latin for “three” and “lily” (trillium), and sessile which means “without a stalk.” This unique flower has three sepals, three petals and three leaves that whorl around a bare stalk.

The actual flower of the trillium may vary in color from brown to maroon to greenish yellow. The flower petals are only about two inches tall, and they stick almost straight up from the green leaves that have gray mottling. The bare stalk of the plant rises about eight to 12 inches in height. Once you actually see this plant in the wild, they begin to be hard to miss!

Trilliums, like other lilies, grow from a rhizome. The plant does bear a berry-type fruit in the summer.

While you’re looking for trilliums, also look for another plant with a brownish colored flower—the wild ginger. Botanically referred to as Asarum canadense, wild ginger plants were the colonial plant that was used for ginger flavoring. The roots of wild ginger have a scent that smells just like the ginger that is commonly used as spice today.

Also, found in wooded bottomlands with rich, moist soil, wild ginger is not easy to see; it only reaches about six inches in height. The small brown flowers on wild ginger give off the scent of decaying fruit, and they are tucked among very noticeable, large, heart-shaped leathery green leaves.

Because wild ginger spreads through an underground root system, once one plant is found, it’s pretty easy to find additional wild ginger plants.

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

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