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Woodland wildflowers are springtime’s dainty treats

Students smile as instructor Cindy Crosby explains the story behind garlic mustard.
People gather round to look at wildflowers during a walk in the Arboretum.
May 8, 2018

Take a walk on the wilder side of The Morton Arboretum in spring for a once-a-year delight: ephemeral wildflowers. Seizing their moment in the sun before the trees’ leaves open to shade the forest floor, flowers twinkle and shine along paths and roadways all around the Arboretum.

Many wildflowers are still in bloom in May, although some species begin blooming as early as March. Spring weather, such as unusually warm days, affects when wildflowers bloom and how long the blooms last.

Don’t delay if you want to see them: As soon as they have set seed, most spring wildflowers go dormant and disappear, huddling underground until next year.

Pick up a field guide in The Arboretum Store to identify many of these blooms.

Here are a few flowers to look for in the Arboretum woods in early May.

Bright yellow wildflower

Celandine-poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum): This is a real showoff, with bright yellow flowers on mounds of ferny green foliage. The flowers are easy to spot in the Arboretum’s woods.

A close-up of a wildflower with small white petals

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria): Imagine a pair of ballooning 17th century pants (upside down) in these whimsical white to pink flowers held on slender stalks. The ferny leaves are like carrot tops. Look along the trail between Parking Lots 10 and 12.

A wildflower with delicate blue petals

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica): Pink buds open to sky-blue tubular flowers on foot-tall stems above soft green leaves in late spring. In late April or early May, there is a sea of sky-blue bluebells on the trail north of Parking Lot 11 and plenty more near Lake Marmo.

A small wildflower with showy white petals and big green leaves

White trillium (Trillium grandiflorum): Showy snow-white flowers with three petals gracefully furl back above a stem with three leaves. Find them many places along trails in the East Woods.