Native Wildflowers Offer Spring Awakenings
One spring day out in my wooded area, I discovered hundreds of yellow trout lilies, white spring beauties and red prairie trillium in full bloom. How could I be so lucky to own this property with these magnificent flowers on the steep hillside?
Who planted them? The answer: no one. Our Indiana spring native plants have grown happily in our woods and prairies without human assistance long before European settlers arrived.
After my discovery, I wanted more natives. An Owen County friend let me transplant some wood poppies, jack-in-the-pulpits and bluebells from his woodland into bare stand of trees near my house. By the third year, the wildflowers had spread to cover most of the area, and now it is a lush, beautiful spring sight.
I dug clumps of Christmas ferns in the summer and planted them in my flowerbed. The following spring, to my surprise, dormant trillium and spring beauties had come along in the dirt. This time of year, just step out on my front porch to see red prairie trillium and tiny spring beauties appearing among the fern fronds.
Easy Native Indiana Favorites
• Virginia bluebells
• Woodland poppies
• Prairie trillium
• Great white trillium
• Dutchman’s breeches
I was hooked, so I began to learn the history of our native plants, including their edible and medicinal uses.
For example, the roots of the cutleaf toothwort have a mild horseradish-like flavor, which was once used to flavor soups and stews. Young shoots of false Solomon’s seal and bellwort were boiled and eaten as substitutes for asparagus.
While on their expedition, Lewis and Clark used wild ginger for its antibiotic properties. Mayapples and bloodroot are now being studied for their cancer-fighting abilities. Bloodroot was also used as a dye by American Indians and in toothpaste to fight plaque.
Spring woodland plants are ephemeral, which means they come up, flower and set seed before the canopy develops on the trees. Then they go dormant until the next spring.
Native plants are so easy – just plant and enjoy. No need to water or fertilize. All you need are seeds or plants to create your own a patch of spring woodland wildflowers.
For more resources, check out the book Go Native by Carolyn Harstad, or visit the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society at inpaws.org.