Wildflowers Monday

A very late spring arrival made it that early wildflowers, especially the ephemerals, will be in a rush from flowers to seeds. I almost missed the flowering start of Sanguinaria! This is the “joy” of a temperate continental climate – long winter hibernation is followed by a fast sprint which is merely a transition into the summer. Meet the future parents…

Spring wildflowers of Southwestern Ontario

  • Sanguinaria canadensis


  • Caulophyllum thalictroides

    Blue cohosh

  • Claytonia virginica

    Eastern Spring beauty

  • Eryhtronium americanum


  • Dicentra cucullaria

    Dutchman’s breeches

  • Claytonia caroliniana

    Carolina Spring beauty

  • Symplocarpus foetidus

    Skunk cabbage

  • Trillium erectum

    Stinking Benjamin, Wake robin

  • Viola macloskeyi

    Small white violet

 More to come…

I forgot to include in the slideshow an interesting finding – one nicely coloured and early blooming Arisaema triphyllum; all others were just showing up.

Arisaema triphyllum - early flowering form1

Arisaema triphyllum – early flowering form


Spring beauty awakening

One more garage check-up before sinking into another round of low night-time temperatures. The spring beauty seeds are sprouting! – maybe they know something that we don’t? ;)

Claytonia virginica is a true ephemeral beauty, a cheer for the soul in springtime!

Claytonia virginica

Claytonia virginica

Virginia spring beauty is common in southern and south-central Ontario and it flowers before the trees are leafing out. The pink (rarely white) flowers that are glistening in the spring sun are a treat after the long winter months! After setting seeds, it retreats in the soil for the rest of the season.

As a trial out, I sown a few seeds immediately after collecting, and I kept the rest in moist vermiculite (warm then cold). The seeds in moist storage have germinated in late December; the ones sown in the spring are germinating now. Note taken: the seeds can be safely offered for sale until beginning of December.

Claytonia virginica

On a top list of ‘hardest seeds to collect’, Claytonia comes first. I have expected Corydalis to win the prize but it didn’t. Like everything beautiful, Claytonia has proven very difficult to handle because it flowers in succession and the fruit maturation follows the same pattern, plus the fruits are dehiscent; a nightmare! And, do I need to mention the small seeds? No wonder is not on many seeds shops lists! But, a few people were happy to find these seeds available, so my effort did pay off. Plus, now I have a few seedlings for myself. Double hit!

Claytonia virginica

Claytonia virginica seedlings

Out in the woods – the Blue Cohosh

A short hike revealed quite a change of the woodland floor with a few ‘faces’ familiar to everyone, like the trout lily (Erythronium americanum), spring beauties (Claytonia spp.), mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) and Trillium ready to flower but also forgotten woodland treasures such as the Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides).

Spring woodland flowers


 Caulophyllum thalictroides – Blue Cohosh, papoose root, squawroot

Blue cohosh is an impressive plant, easy to recognize in early spring by the strikingly beautiful purple, almost back shoots. The foliage will change later to green and resemble the meadow rue (Thalictrum), hence the epithet ‘thalictroides’.

‘Cohosh’ is believed to derive from an Algonquian word meaning ‘rough’, referring to the texture of the plant’s rhizome, while ‘blue’ comes from the unusually blue seeds. Also the stem and leaves are covered with a bluish film early in the summer.

Caulophyllum thalictroides shoot in early spring

Caulophyllum thalictroides shoot in early spring

The small purplish or yellowish green flowers would not qualify for a beauty contest but not the same goes for the blue seeds adorning the stems in the fall. For combinations in the garden, only imagination is the limit: a mix palette with early spring flowering native species (Claytonia, Erytronium, Sanguinaria) or for an European decor combined with: Corydalis solida, early primroses, Anemone nemorosa, Ranunculus, so on…For part-shade to shade locations, in rich humus soil.

 Other uses:

Blue cohosh was used medicinally (powder rhizomes) by various native American tribes, mainly to promote childbirth (‘squawroot’) but also for: anxiety, rheumatism, stomach cramps and genito-urinary dysfunctions. It contains a number of active compounds among which caulosaponin is a powerful stimulator of uterine contractions (under medical attention it is still used in modern herbal medicine as a natural labour-inducing stimulant).