Woodland Spring Wildflowers: An Update

In late April and early May, most of the wildflowers blooming in the park are found in the woods. This is changing; from now on, most blooms will be in the more sunny areas.

On my walk on May 21, I took a look at what remained of the spring woodland flowers.

Trillium is still blooming, but fading.


Wild Geranium is at its peak, now the most prominent flower along the path through the woods.


While earlier the Mayapple was recognized by its foliage, the single flower per plant is now open (though one needs to get down close to the ground to get a good look.



Violets were plentiful in Eliza Howell this year, both in and outside the woods, and they came in a variety of species/colors.

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Now the few remaining blooming violets in the woods are the white ones. It is noteworthy that the plants are now much taller and the leaves larger than when blooming began.


This may be my last walk of the year focused on woodland wildflowers. Overall, 2018 was not a great early wildflower year, the probable result of the weather – a cold April and a wet May. But the flowers will come again next year and I hope to be ready to greet and welcome them.


Meet the Mayapple

One of the fascinating spring Eliza Howell Park wildflowers is the Mayapple. The fruit – the so-called apple – is not ripe until later in the year, but the flower blooms in May. Mayapple is, however, known at least as much for its foliage as it is for its blossoms or fruit.

According to the Prince William Wildflower Society, a Virginia native plant society, a Cherokee name for Mayapple can be translated as “it wears a hat,” and an Osage name as “it pains the bowels.”

Mayapple is a colony plant; a single root has many umbrella-like stems, connected by underground rhyzomes. Dozens of these stems make up a typical Mayapple stand. Mayapple stands or patches are largely avoided by mammal herbivores, like deer, because the foliage, the rhysomes, and the (green) fruit are all poisonous.


The above photo is from April 26, 2017.

Mayapple grows in rich moist soil in deciduous forests and can be seen in a few locations in the wooded areas of Eliza Howell.  The stand that I regularly observe was late in developing this year, as were other wildflowers. Most of the stems did not emerge until mid-April. (the next picture is from April 25, 2018.)


A few days later, the stand was taking shape and the plants were about ½ of their adult size (which is a foot to a foot and a half).


Some plants have only one leaf and will not have flower/fruit, but most have two leaves. These produce a single flower at the fork of the two leaves.


Though the single white flowers are very attractive, they can be missed when they bloom because they face downward under and are shaded by the umbrella leaves. (The next picture is from May 7, 2017.)


The fruit is green, turning yellow when it ripens. Ripe fruit is edible (when the seeds have been removed), the only edible part of the entire plant.

The Cherokee and Osage names for what we call Mayapple are, I think, both very good. I don’t have my own descriptive name…..yet.


Varieties of Violets

This is an unusually cold early spring, but new plant growth is slowly emerging. On a recent walk in Eliza Howell, I noticed that a few violets are now up. 


The flowers will follow before long.

While some roses are red, violets are not truly blue. They come in a variety of other colors, reflecting the variety of violet species that exist. Probably the most common violet found in Eliza Howell Park is the color that I have always associated with this flower.


It grows in the woods and in the open areas. In the next picture, it can be seen with wild strawberry blossoms.


In 2017, I photographed three other colors of violets in the park. 




Not all Spring flowers that are sometimes called “violets” are really violets. One of the flowers found in EHP in Spring is one (next picture) that is frequently called “Dog Tooth Violet.” It is not a violet (the leaves and the flower are both very different) and is, I think, better identified as White Trout Lily.


The violets are coming and different varieties will be blooming before April is over. I wonder… perhaps I will find an additional variety this year.