Putting names to petals

A little rain sure can get us a long way as we progress into summer. When out on the trail these days, I am again surrounded by the multiple shades of green in the forest similar to the environment I experienced when I first moved up here last September. The deciduous trees are in full bloom, the conifers are especially aromatic, and the mosses and lichens are lush.

Vibrant patches of color are also scattered among the forest floor as the wildflowers are now starting to pop up. Eager to use my field guides that I got for Christmas, I grabbed my wildflower book and started identifying them on my most recent hikes. The book is titled “Wildflowers of Wisconsin” by Stan Tekiela who is a naturalist, wildlife photographer, and originator of many other popular field guides. Although the book was based on Wisconsin wildflowers, it is still a legitimate resource because Minnesota and Wisconsin share similar ecosystems.

Following are pictures of the most common wildflowers out there right now. Now if you come upon them, you will know what they are!


Bunchberry, named for its tight bunches of red berries

Bluebead lily

Bluebead Lily, berries are not edible!


Nodding Trillium, naturally facing downward



Marsh Marigold, easy to identify because they reign in the marshes

Spring Beauty

Spring Beauty, as it truly is!


Harebell, look as if they should ring in the wind


Downy Yellow Violet, one of the many colors of violets


Wood Anemone


Wild Strawberry, sweet snack while on a hike


Baneberry, could be white or red


Lilac, lovely smell 

Star Flower

Star Flower, you can see where they got that name

Columbine, tips taste sweet

Columbine, have a taste of the nectar filled spurs

I would highly recommend this field guide if you are ever interested in I.D.ing plants; clear, colored pictures as well as all of the information you need condensed on one small page. Very easy to navigate through as well for the flowers are categorized by color. He has many state-specific guides, so if you live elsewhere, you can more than likely find a book for that location.

Learning to interpret the environment is an interesting and exciting activity to do while hiking. Especially in the spring when all of the new plants pop up. A little advice to make for a better learning experience: when identifying plants, try for only two or three at a time so you are not over loaded with information. That way, you can really get each plant down individually.

Not only is I.D.ing plants something fun to do while hiking, but also allows you to see your environment with a different perspective. Instead of seeing a tree as a tree or flower as a flower, you know them by name and perhaps a few special characteristics about them, such as edibility, growth patterns, and their various uses. It’s kind of like getting to know people, instead of just another face in the crowd, you know them by name and who they are as a person, tying more sentimental value to them.

The more people you know, the better; the more plants you know, the better. Take advantage of our short summers when everything is in bloom and make and effort to get to know the plants that you walk by every day. You never know when your environmental knowledge could come in handy!