The month of May, like most of our months, can trace its name back in history. In Greek and Roman myth, “Maia” and “maiores” (respectively) translates to meanings such as fertility, mother, midwife, growth, and elder.
In Ojibwe, it is known as Waabignwani giizis, or “The Flower Moon.” This seems to be the most fitting name for the month. A month that started with snow cover this year quickly jumped toward summer, and flowers that usually would show up a few at a time exploded all at once. The following are a few that I have found, mostly in the city of Duluth, farther north along the Superior Hiking Trail, and over at Deep Portage Learning Center near Longville, MN.
Trilliums are some of my favorite friends that pop up in early spring. Look for blankets of these showy flowers in shaded woodlands.
Bellwort is a flower that always looks a little bit droopy and wilted, like it hasn’t gotten enough water. These yellow flowers always remind me a little bit of bananas.
Ferns come up in fiddleheads, some of which are edible. I’m still working on my ferns, and didn’t get that clear of a picture of this one, so I’m not sure what species it is. If anyone knows what fern I have here, I’d appreciate some help in the comments!
Wood anemone (top left) is a flower that I always struggle to pronounce, but I find all over. Anemone…anem-ooo-ne…amenome?
Bloodroot (top right) gets its name from the juice in its rhizomes (stems that are underground). Their flowers don’t stick around long, so I was happy to catch their fleeting beauty.
Strawberries are some of the first little plants to green up, in open patches while there is still snow everywhere else. I think that these ones (bottom) are wood strawberry, because of the shape and lobing of the leaves, but it would be easier to tell definitively after they fruit. Wood strawberry will have seeds on the surface of the berry, whereas common strawberry’s seeds are embedded in pits.
A couple of my favorites: plants from a bog! The one to the left is pale laurel, which is toxic to humans and other animals. However, our little pollinator seems to be enjoying it! To the right is not a flower, but is still a happy sign of spring. Look closely for the small yellow-green discs with red, sticky hairs. These are sundew plants, one of Minnesota’s carnivorous plants. The sticky hairs close around unlucky insects that wander too close.
Marsh marigold shows up in vernal (temporary, springtime) ponds and along the edges of creeks. The clumps of yellow really pop!
The top right picture is wild columbine, which I grew up calling honeysuckle, because they taste sweet like honey. A quick google search tells me that they are indeed edible, which is good, because I nibbled on quite a few as a youth (and still do)…
The bottom left shows a starflower, aptly named for its stellar shape.
To the left is wild sasparilla. The leaves look similar to poison ivy, but don’t be alarmed! It’s part of the ginseng family, and has been used to make rootbeer and tea.
To the right is spring beauty. Named because it is a spring beauty!
Lily of the valley is actually native to Europe, and forms large beds that crowd out native species. It is also toxic. But, its tiny, bell-shaped flowers sure are beautiful.
Ornamental crab apples are very popular with the bumblebees and other pollinators!
To the left is blue-eyed grass (this is my guess, please correct me if I’m wrong). This picture, unlike the others, came from far southern Minnesota, in Red Wing up on top of a bluff.
To the right is one of my favorites, dutchman’s breeches. I enjoy thinking of tiny dutchmen who could wear such little pants.
There have been other flowers out that I just haven’t managed to get a picture of. However, it has been exciting to watch these lovelies pop up over the course of just a few weeks. As ephemerals, their flowering is short-lived. Get out soon to see what treasures are in your neighborhood!
Many thanks to these resources, which are my go-to books for information on flowers and phenology:
Oslund, C., & Oslund, M. (2002). Whats doin the bloomin?: A pictorial guide to wildflowers, by season, of the Upper Great Lakes Regions, Eastern Canada and Northeastern U.S. Duluth, MN: Plant Pics LLP.
Weber, L. (2013). Minnesota Phenology: Seasonal Northland Nature. St. Cloud, MN. North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.