Saturday, April 15, 2017. Deep in the Northwoods Wild Area of Cuivre River State Park, a May apple (Polophyllum peltatum) bloom glows in the Northern Missouri midday sunlight.
Cuivre River is one of the largest state parks in Missouri and contains two separate designated Wild Areas and three distinct Natural Areas highlighting the different natural communities found in the state like woodlands, glades, prairie, hollows, and river/creek bottomlands. Home to two major waterways of the area, Cuivre River and Big Sugar Creek, the park is a favorite of expert naturalists, families seeking solitude on nice days, groups of horseback riders, and hardcore hikers with forty miles of backwoods trail system to navigate.
A primordial place with ancient vibration, Cuivre River State Park and surrounding area of the Lincoln Hills was never encapsulated in the eleven different Laurentide Ice Sheet glaciations that occurred over the last 2 million years. This was not only refuge for the flora and fauna from Canada during the last Ice Age, but also home to Paleo-Indian tribes who originally discovered and populated a continent during a time where large portions of North America were inaccessible due to massive glacial ice fields.
A woodland plant found growing in colonies derived from a single root, the umbrella-like form of May apple (Polophyllum peltatum) dominates the understory for miles.
With clover shaped leaves and pink petals, Violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea) provided early Spring splashes of color to the brightly lit forest floor.
May apple grows in abundance during Spring and Summer in the woodland areas of the Midwest. Parts of the forest seem almost a verdant buffet of vegetation where a survivalist could feast for months, but all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans and many animals.
Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) was widely dispersed throughout the park.
A member of the Crowfoot family, Rue Anenome (Anemonella thalictroides) means “little windflower” in Greek and is believed to be the longest flowering species of early Spring.
Another member of the Crowfoot family, Golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis) requires moist habitat.
The tiny wildflower bloom of Yellow violet (Viola pubescens) balanced the many purple Common violets seen everywhere in Missouri for weeks.
A handful of Pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii), also called Indian Tobacco, were found in a glade-like area above Big Sugar Creek.
At home on the acidic prairie, a few, small Yellow star grass (Hypoxis hirsuta) blooms were present in the upper woodlands.
The delicate and anthropormorphic form of a Bird’s-foot violet (Viola pedata) bloom is seen in an open area on a hillside next to large clumps of moss.
Also found growing on an open hillside, small specimens of Hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens) were seen basking in the sun.
Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) glowing in the bottomlands near Big Sugar Creek.
A member of the Phlox family, Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans) was only in a few moist areas.
Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) was found low to the ground in thick, rich soils.
Only, maybe two Gaura (Gaura longiflora), also called Butterfly flower, were observed in miles of hiking.
The Little Frog, Harvey’s buttercup (Ranunculus harveyi) was thriving near the creek.
One of my all time favorite Spring blooms, twenty to thirty specimens of Dwarf larkspur (Delphinium tricorne) were found deep in the woods growing in a sandy creek bottom.
A rare sighting in the Missouri woods, a handful of the pure white variety of normally purple colored Common violet (Viola sororia) were also found in the thick, moist sandy soils of the creek area.
A member of the Carrot family, Golden Alexanders (Zizea aurea) bloom in complex geometric clusters.
Along the sandy banks of Big Sugar Creek in the Big Sugar Creek Wild Area were signs of Raccoon (Procyon lotor) and White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).
Squaw-weed (Packera obovata) grows on sand bars in Big Sugar Creek.
A yet to bloom set of Trillium (Trillium sessile), also called Wake Robin, growing on a very steep hillside next to Big Sugar Creek.
An early Spring native wildflower, Dog’s-tooth violet (Althronium albidum), also called Trout lily, was in decline as the transition of early to mid-Spring blooms had visibly begun.
Wood betony (Pedicularis canadensis), a member of the Figwort family, grows on top of a hillside among the ever present Spring beauty.
An unconventional wildflower in shape and texture, Wood betony grew in sparse patches along our six mile wilderness trek. Images almost seemingly derived from television production material like ‘Star Trek’, ‘Lost in Space’ or ‘Dr. Who’, Wood betony could easily inspire the design of a mysterious alien race of intelligent plant beings in a future Sci-fi production.
A member of the Honeysuckle family, the sweet fragrance of Southern black haw (Viburnum rufidulum) in full bloom saturates the warm, Spring forest air. This wildflower grows into a beautiful understory, shade tolerant member of the Missouri woods beginning at shrub size and maturing into a small tree.
Southern black haw provides not only a crucial food resource to local pollinators, but also colorful Autumnal foliage as its leaves turn bright red during cooler weather.
We only saw a handful of Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) the entire day. With their gorgeous pink/purple blooms, these native Missouri wildflowers once played an important role in Native American medicinal compounds.