Focus on Forest Floor Flowers: April Watch

One of the annual field trips offered by Detroit Audubon is a spring woodland wild flower walk in Eliza Howell Park. In winter, I select a date for that event, long before I have a sense of how quickly spring will progress.

Based on past records, this year’s date is April 23. It’s a cold spring this year and I am hoping the selected date will coincide with peak blooming time this year.

The spring flowers are small and low to the ground. Though it may take a close look to appreciate them fully, many are fascinated by these first wildflowers of the year. Three of several species here every year are:

Trout Lily
Spring Beauty
Wild Ginger

These perennial wildflowers have little foliage, grow in the woods before the trees have leaves to shade the ground, and are short-lived, dying back before summer. They are often referred to as “spring ephemerals.”

The plants are just starting to emerge. Spring Beauty is one of the earliest; I saw these leaves just yesterday.

Spring Beauty is also one of the most abundant of the spring ephemerals in the park, showing several different color variations.

The leaves of Violets are also becoming visible.

Violet is a common yard flower, often growing where it may not be wanted and not always greatly valued. But I annually find myself seeking out — and admiring — the varieties found in Eliza Howell.

I have also seen the first indication that Mayapple is emerging, the stem just starting to poke up.

Mayapple differs from many of the other woodland spring wildflowers in that it is larger, with a lot of foliage and few flowers (which bloom in May). Mayapple is sometimes referred as the umbrella plant, and part of my enjoyment of it in April is watching the way the leaves unfurl as the plant grows.

A Mayapple plant has a single flower that hangs under the leaves.

April is a time to watch for certain migrating bird species and a time to try to locate / watch early nest making.

But much of the time during the next 2 – 3 weeks I will be looking down at the forest floor as I walk: watching how the flowers are developing, how abundant common species are this year, and looking for species that are not very common here, such as Dutchman’s Breeches

Dutchman’s Breeches

An annual April highlight is watching spring woodland wildflowers — and sharing the opportunity and enjoyment with others.

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