While driving home from dropping Lilly off at the vet in Mount Horeb to have her teeth cleaned, I took time to notice what was blooming along the road.
There were so many different clumps of flower along this route. I was glad that on a whim I had grabbed my camera as I ran out the door. So with camera handy, I started shooting the flowers as I drove home…. pulling way off the shoulder and positioning my car between myself and any on coming traffic. (With the twists and turns on these rural highways, I thought it best to be as safe as possible.)
The first flowers I spotted were the native columbine. This unusual flower was the precursor for the varieties we grow in our gardens. It is in the buttercup family and likes dry, rocky places, open woods and shady areas.
Also along the roadside were areas of wild geraniums, sometimes called crane’s bill geranium. These are native plants that are often found in dry, shady areas like woods and meadows… and apparently woody roadsides.
While photographing the wild geraniums I came across some golden alexanders. Golden alexander is a lovely plant with yellow flower clusters. It is a native plant found in wet sunny places… including moist fields, woods, and roadside ditches. Golden alexander blooms in the late spring, maybe into early summer, and should not be confused with the invasive parsnip.
The roadside has lots of this colorful non-native flower. While at first I was excited, thinking it was wild phlox, I came to realize it was the invasive dame’s rocket. While both plants look similar and the mistake I made is a common error, many prairie and meadow restorers try to banish this plant. Phlox flowers have 5 petals while dame’s rocket has only 4 petals. I found large stands of it in white and lavender and thought it was lovely… most likely because it’s not a problem I’ve had to fight in the prairie.
The last flower I noted on my roadside observations was a truly exciting find. As I drove towards home I spotted this flower and noted it was a different shape and color than the other flowers I had seen. It turned out to be a patch of wild lupine. This is evidence of the prairies that once upon a time covered this region. (We know this by reviewing historical notes and old aerial photos that indicate a lack of trees in the area originally.)
Wild lupine is found most commonly in sandy open woodlands and prairies. It is also an important player in the life cycle of the federally endangered Karner Blue butterfly. Karner Blues use this plant as a food source during its larval state. So finding this gives us hope that the Karner Blue will have a fighting chance.
All of the photos shown here were shot along County Road JG, between Mount Horeb and County Road A in Dane County, Wisconsin. All the plants were found along a portion of the Prairie Heritage Bike Trail. To find out more about the bike trail and download a trail guide go to www.countyofdane.com/commissions/environmentalcouncil/bikeTrail.aspx.