May 8, 2014
Wild ginger is an interesting wildflower that blooms in May in Connecticut woodlands. The flower is almost secretive, blossoming at ground level and hidden by two heart-shaped leaves. Click to enlarge.
On a recent day, I hiked part of the Henry Buck Trail in American Legion State Forest in Barkhamsted with Eleanor “Sam” Saulys, a longtime board member of the Connecticut Botanical Society and a wildflower identification expert. The Buck Trail is a footpath that Saulys and many others think may be the single best spot in Connecticut to see some of the wildflowers that emerge in May.
“It is a wonderful display of plants,” she said. “Everything that you want to see can easily be seen within 500 feet of the road. You don’t need to put on your hiking boots or anything. It is a well worn trail.”
Already in bloom this day were purple trillium, with striking dark purple petals, and Dutchman’s breeches, a diminutive plant with dangling white flowers that, in fact, look like breeches or pantaloons. Also blooming was wild ginger – a small, mysterious plant with its three-lobed flower literally at ground level, sheltered from above by two bright, light- to medium-green, heart-shaped leaves. The flower is easily overlooked, but worth searching out – look for the distinctive leaves, then find the flower.
Dutchman's breeches is in bloom in Connecticut woodlands right now. The flowers of this diminutive plant suggest old-fashioned breeches or pantaloons. Click to enlarge.
The wildflowers, of course, are part of the rhythm of the seasons, each species with its bloom time, some emerging even in March, others lingering into November, each with its ecological niche, each brightening the landscape for a few days or weeks.
After a long, cold winter, a wildflower walk on a mild day in mid- to late-May is especially pleasant. That many songbirds will be migrating through at the same time adds a woodland chorus to your outing.
My outdoors column appears in tomorrow’s editions of The Hartford Courant, with suggestions from Saulys on some great places to view wildflowers in coming weeks.
Check the Connecticut Botanical Society website for a list of their scheduled outings, open to newcomers and novice wildflower enthusiasts. www.ct-botanical-society.org.