Monday, May 23, 2011

Mid-May eastern hardwood forest wildflowers

May in a mature eastern hardwood forest, Indian Creek Nature Center near Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Most of the trees in the photo are White Oak (Quercus alba) and Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa). 
One of the first sure signs of spring in the Midwest is the waking up of the forest floor.  You would expect sunny grassy areas to spring up greenery first but oddly, the cooler shaded forest floors seem to wake up usually late in April.  These plants bloom quickly before the trees leaf out and shade the forest floor.  Then through the end of May or so, depending on how warm it is, the forest is full of a wide variety of wildflowers.  While these flower shows do not dramatically cover forests with brilliant blooms, there are always an abundance of flowers.  Most notable though may be the intense green that blankets the entire landscape.  The best flower shows will always be in mature upland hardwood forests.  These mature forests are often characterized by large inter-spaced oak trees and need to have a forest floor that is not disturbed by grazing, erosion, or flooding.

The Indian Creek Nature Center outside of Cedar Rapids Iowa has many acres of prime mature eastern hardwood forest.  I recently went hiking there a few times on a short trip visiting relatives.  The nature centers land is extremely healthy and well maintained.  There are great examples of upland forest, bottom land forest, and wetlands.  It is also part of Northeastern Iowa's Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area

Here are some of the flowers and plants I found on a recent trip. 
Virginia Bluebells



May Apple
Poison Ivy

Prairie Trillium

Wild Geranium

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