It’s beginning to look a lot like a winter that is at last painfully yielding to spring

Well, I missed a few days again, but because there are no real rules, I’m not going to recover them with dedicated single pictures for those dates. Instead, I offer up this lengthier post of some of the sights I saw this weekend. I slipped on some wildly impractical, basically cloth shoes and headed out into the woods to track down those harbingers of spring I’ve come to look for every year now. They’re mostly wildflowers, and despite having blogged about them for a third year now, and despite in theory having a “degree” in “horticulture” from an “accredited university” and working “in the industry,”  I somehow am still looking these things up at Minnesota Wildflowers (which is a wonderful resource) to help me identify them. HOW HAVE I NOT MEMORIZED EVERY LAST THING THERE IS TO KNOW YET?!?!??!

Anyway, let’s check in on spring and see how it’s progressing in the backyard, eh?


This isn’t in the literal backyard; this is on the side of the fairly steep ravine behind my parents’ house. But I figured I better open with the single plant I managed to find in bloom during the whole walk. It is a bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Yeah, we’re getting proper with our scientific names again. Save us, binomial nomenclature, save us from the tide of overlapping, confusing, regional-specific, chaotic seas that are common names! Let us moor in your ever so slightly calmer waters, binomial nomenclature!

While I’m on the topic, allow me to share a pet peeve I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before. It’s the improper formatting of a plant’s scientific name in contemporary botanical prints. Sure, sure, who DOESN’T have that gripe, right? If you’re not familiar, the first name in a scientific name (that’s the generic name, or genus) should be capitalized, while the second name (the specific epithet, or the name of the species) should just be in lowercase. Both names are supposed to be italicized, or underlined, if you’re printing. But too often in the world of contemporary botanical prints, you’ll see the specific epithet capitalized. You know the kind of decor I’m talking about. That print of four culinary herbs in a tastefully muted palette with some illegible cursive writing in the background. It’s on sale at Kohl’s for $19.99. Most of my peevishness about grammar, spelling, and mechanics has faded but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna peeve hard on this one until the day I die. I don’t care if your average person gets it wrong in informal settings, but if you’re going to dedicate a print to some lovely plant, you should take care in its depiction, including how it’s identified. They’d take points off us in our plant ID classes when we spelled a name wrong, or messed up the capitalization.

Have standards at least as high as an undergraduate horticulture class, print peddlers.

Anyway, this is a photo blog.

Which family does S. canadensis belong to? The poppy family, Papaveraceae. What does that mean to me right now? Not a lot. But I’m trying to introduce families back into my plant ID so’s to have a bigger framework on which to hang my understanding. Will it work? Maybe. Am I going to try for a while? Sure!

I’m going to backtrack now, though. Here’s what I saw in the vegetable gardens:


 An old tomato.


The rhubarb is coming up.


And there was a sweet little bird’s nest by the ole wheel.


And I kept taking pictures of rapidly-greening little sedums framed through the deep sinuses of pin oak leaves. I wasn’t totally pleased with any of them, but here’s one of those.


 And here’s some daffodil leaves served up fresh under the layer of leaf mulch, which was making them start to turn yellow from want of light, I guess, but not as bad as last year. And now I’m hoping that they haven’t gotten too cold uncovered in the last few days. Man, I feel like this is something a former hort student should be more confident about….


 Virginia waterleaf, you crazy showgirl. (Hydrophyllum virginianum, in the borage family, Boraginaceae)




More Virginia waterleaf.


 The gateway to a brave new world… Now we head back to the woods.


Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria, Fumariaceae, fumary family, whatever that is. This guy is bleeding heart’s cousin. Isn’t that super, super sweet?)


The forest floor is just carpeted with trout lilies. There are three species of those in Minnesota; this one is Erythronium albidum. They’re in the…wait for it…lily family (Liliaceae).


 See, look at ’em all.


You can see them in the foreground here to get a better idea of their size.


I am terribly ashamed to admit I don’t know what this is, don’t really have an idea, but I will figure it out within, say, a month’s time.


Dutchman’s breeches and trout lily sharing a bed of moss.


I think this is a wild leek (Allium tricoccum, it’s in the onion family, Alliaceae). I always find a small smattering of these.

Oak leaf just chilling


Gooseberry (Ribes spp.)


Gooseberry, year-round deadliness.


8 thoughts on “It’s beginning to look a lot like a winter that is at last painfully yielding to spring

    • That does it. BANISH’D. Starting IMMEDIATELY.

      Yeah, we were maybe looking at some snow Sunday night, but we lucked out. I’m not holding my breath that we’re through with winter yet, though.

  1. These are beautiful, and they warm my heart. I haven’t gotten to go play in the woods with all my wildflower friends in a long time, and it made me smile to see pictures of them all. I love that you know all their names. I’m still learning. : )

  2. I enjoyed this post immensely, pet peeves and all. I think I know just the print (or type) you’re referring to. I took a couple of plant ID courses many years ago and I know just what you mean. It’s not enough to remember the Genus and species you have to format & spell them proper OR ELSE. I do appreciate your using the family names and all. It’s been quite some time and I still feel like I should have them memorized just cuz (I think I’ve got Rosaceae & Liliaceae down…lol, oh and knowing Oak & Maple leaves and…lol). So YOU GO GIRL! Don’t beat yourself up too bad, just enough.

    I like the Dutchman’s Breeches (well that doesn’t sound too good) & the Columbine. Mine are up too, Columbine that is. New growth is fascinating isn’t it? As I said in my comment for the next post, around here we’ve got Erythronium americanum up and doing its thing.

    Thanks for sharing!

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