Finding Spring in the Woods

By Mary Ellen Ellis | March 17, 2021
Image by Pito Fotos
by Mary Ellen Ellis
March 17, 2021

A walk (or run) in the woods is one of my favorite pastimes. A hot summer day is cooler under the trees and fall colors are inspiring, but the best time of year in the woods is spring. That’s when I know it will soon be warm again and I find little woodland gems””early spring wildflowers. 

Signs of Spring in Michigan

I’m just not a winter person, which is why I love spring so much. I like summer for the heat, but spring is hopeful, and I love nothing more than seeing the first signs that the weather is warming once again. 

In Michigan the signs are plentiful; robins come back to hop around in the yard and pull up earthworms, spring peepers””little frogs“”chirp from the wetlands, willow trees along rivers turn yellow, and of course, the early flowers arrive, sometimes popping up out of the snow. 

Michigan’s Spring Woodland Flowers

The emergence of snowdrops and crocuses in lawns is nice, but what I really love””what tells me it’s spring””are the native, woodland wildflowers. Here are some of my favorites to hunt for as the snow melts and the days warm: 

  • Bloodroot. The name sounds grim, but bloodroot is a pretty white flower that begins blooming as early as March in Michigan’s forests. 
  • Skunk cabbage. Again, it’s not a pretty name, but skunk cabbage is one of the first plants I see each year in wetlands and wet forests. The reddish, cone-like flower emerges first and quickly grows into a big, green plant. If you blink, you’ll miss the flower. 
  • Hepatica. Hepatica is a delicate, purple flower that blooms early and mostly in the beech and maple forests found in my area of Michigan. 
  • Dutchman’s breeches. This is always a fun one to find. The white flowers look like pairs of pants, hence the name. Dutchman’s breeches also grow in beech-maple forests. 
  • Mayapple. The flower of this native plant doesn’t arrive until May, but the unique leaves pop up earlier in spring. Mayapples stand tall and in colonies, looking like a stand of umbrellas. Sometimes I see chipmunks taking cover under them. 

I look forward every year to seeing the first signs of spring in my neighborhood and in my forests. It’s a joyful time when I anticipate the end of winter and the beginning of the growing season. 

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