Put a spring in your step and connect with nature by looking for beautiful wildﬂowers popping up along the conservation area trails. Among my favorites to look for:
Violets (Violas spp.) are amazing hidden jewels, chosen by school children in 1901 to be the Illinois State Flower. A half cup of violet leaves has as much vitamin C as an orange. You can spot purple and yellow variations along the Discovery Trail in April and May. Look for their heart shaped leaves.
Jack-in-the-pulpit (Ariseama triphyllum) is found in the woodlands of the Lookout Trail from April-June. This plant has three-lobed leaves with a ﬂower consisting of a tall green stalk centered inside a green hooded cup. The ﬂowers can be all green, green with dark green stripes, or green with purple stripes. It blends in well, so look closely.
Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) have tiny white ﬂowers with pink stripes. The stripes act like miniature runaways, helping insects fnd and gather the pollen. Native Americans and pioneers ate the roots as a vegetable. The best time to view these ﬂowers is on sunny mornings along any wooded trail in March-May.
Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) can be found in woods and prairies during May and June. Their leaves blend in with the grasses, but their bright ﬂowers have three purple petals. The petals of spiderwort will melt from the heat of your fngers and the afternoon sun.
Additional spring ﬂowers include: bloodroot, bluebells, cinquefoil, dutchman’s breeches, hepatica, mayapple, phlox, toothwort, and trillium.
Each conservation area has a unique community of plants. Walk the trails at Fort Daniel, Friends Creek, Griswold, Rock Springs, and Sand Creek Conservation Areas to see how many you can spot. Remember to leave these living organisms un-touched so they can beneft the areas they inhabit, and for others to enjoy!
by Jenny Garver