An Extravagance of Wildflowers

“There is something classic about the study of the little world that is made up by our first spring flowers—all those which bloom not later than April.”– Donald Culross Peattie


The “little world” of spring wildlowers is in full swing in the prairie savanna and neighboring woodlands. Let’s go take a hike and look.


The palm warblers flit through the trees, a prelude to the waves of warblers to come.

yellow rumped warbler SPMASAV 42219WM.jpg

By an old log, hepatica is blooming in whites and purples. The fuzzy new leaves, which replace the winter-weary ones, are emerging below. Oh, hepatica! You always say “spring” to me.


I love the range of color, from deep purple to  lavender to snow white.


Close by, the yellow trout lilies are just beginning to bloom. Tiny pollinators are finding them, like this little one.

Erythronium americanum with pollinator SPMASAV 42219WM copy.jpg

You may have grown up calling the yellow and white trout lilies “dogtooth violets.” By any name they are marvelous. The yellow seem all the more special for their scarcity here in the savanna where I walk, although they are prolific in other parts of the Midwest.

The mayapples are up in full force, unfurling their umbrellas.


Rue anemone, trembling on its ethereal stems, is even less prolific than the yellow trout lilies in the prairie savanna. I look for the small stand of it each year, and feel a sense that all is right with the world when I find it.

Rue Anemone-SPMASAV-42319WM.jpg

Jacob’s ladder leaves lace the landscape, while Virginia bluebells look as if they will explode any moment.


Bloodroot is in full swing, and the bee flies are delighted.

Beefly on Sanguinara Canadensis WM41719.jpg

The blood root flowers last about three days, then the petals shatter. I’m enjoying them while they last.

Sanguinara canadensis-SPMASAV-42219WM.jpg

Most of the Arboretum’s visitors this week are strolling through the hundreds of thousands of daffodil blooms on display, a golden sea under the oaks. I can’t blame them much; the daffodils are spectacular this spring. But my heart is with these spring ephemerals, like the wild blue phlox with its candle flame of a bud, poised to emerge.


In 1935, Donald Culross Peattie wrote in his Almanac for Moderns of spring wildflower time: “Happy are those who this year, for the first time, go wood wandering to find them, who first crack open the new manual, smelling of fresh ink, and rejoice in the little new pocket lens.”



True happiness, indeed. Happy hiking this week!


Chicago-born Donald Culross Peattie (1898-1964) was an influential nature writer who inspired generations of naturalists. An Almanac for Moderns is his daily guide to observing the natural world through 365 days of the year. He advocated for the protection of Indiana Dunes, which recently became a National Park.

All photos this week are from The Morton Arboretum prairie savanna and woodlands, copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): Schulenberg Prairie and Savanna at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL, palm warbler (Setophaga palmarum), hepatica (hepatica nobilis acuta), hepatica (hepatica nobilis acuta), yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum), mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), bloodroot  (Sanguinaria canadensis), wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata), spring beauty (Claytonia virginica).



Cindy’s classes and speaking events this week:

Tallgrass Prairie Ecology online continues–offered through The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL. Register for the June online class here.

Tuesday, April 23, 7:30  p.m.–Prairie Plants at Home, Villa Park Garden Club. Free and open to the public! See for specific location.

Friday, April 26--Spring Wildflower Walk, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL (Sold out)

Saturday, April 27–Dragonflies and Damselflies–Blue Line Financial luncheon (Private Event)

10 responses to “An Extravagance of Wildflowers

  1. Barbara Maxson

    Thanks for the review of the spring flowers. I so enjoy your pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey thanks for the Nomia thing in your book as the Cardinal flowers description is pretty great. My fiend Sharon heard you speak at Wild Chicago and even saw Nomia on there. A first. They do seem to just appear from nowhere all of a sudden.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, John! I hope things are glorious at Nomia Meadows right now, and the apple trees are leafing out, and bees buzzing away. Can’t wait for the Cardinal flowers this season! Thanks for taking time to write, and I’m so glad you saw Nomia featured in “Tallgrass Conversations.” It’s a beautiful place, and you and Lisa are doing great work there.
      Cindy 🙂


  3. Connie Schmidt

    I jus love your photos! The same splashes of color buoy me until the warmth of spring really takes hold. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading, Connie, and taking time to write! You are doing such great work for the natural world — I’ll be cheering you on from afar on Saturday. I find the first flush of spring wildflowers are such a tonic after a long winter as well. Grateful for your encouraging comments.


  4. Sandy Phillips

    Cindy, I so wish I lived closer and could hear one of your talks. When I come to Nachusa’s Autumn on the Prairie this fall, I’m promising myself to come to the Morton Arboretum. Thanks for the inspiring vision you provide in getting us through another “by-our-fingernails” winter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sandy, for being such a faithful reader of the blog. It seems like Autumn on the Prairie is so far away, but it will be here before we know it! Grateful for your comments, and happy spring!
      Cindy 🙂


  5. Nothing compares to the spring ephemerals. They are my favorite, hands down! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy, I love the prairie and savanna in all their seasons, but there is something so special about those spring ephemerals after a long winter. Thank you for taking time to leave a note, and for your encouraging, upbeat comments! Happy spring! Cindy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s