Summer is officially here, and with the warm temperatures comes a forest that is fully green and alive! As a kid, visiting my grandma in northern Wisconsin meant spending long days running through the woods and collecting wildflowers for my family. And my love for these flowers hasn’t faded over the years. Here are a few familiar floral faces to look for on your next woodland adventure!
One of the most memorable wildflowers for me and for many Wisconsinites is the trillium, or great white trillium. The great white trillium is a native Wisconsin wildflower with three white petals and three pointed green leaves that offset the petals. The center of the flower is yellow and the flower turns pink as it ages. Trilliums grow extensively in moist woodland soil and—much to my dismay as a child—only flower from late March to late May. I fondly remember the trilliums covering my grandma’s forest in a carpet of white, which indicated to me that summer was almost here.
Photo Credit: Armund Bartz, Wisconsin DNR
Another common Wisconsin wildflower is the wood violet, Wisconsin’s state flower. This flower made its way into my bouquets as a kid because of its beautiful purple color. The wood violet is a small 1” flower that has 5 petals, with two large petals at the top and three smaller petals at the bottom. The leaves of a wood violet are heart-shaped with serrated edges. Look for these blooms from March through June—they don’t fade as fast as the trillium!
Photo Credit: John S. Snowden, Bluestem Nursery
Yet another favorite is bee balm, also known as wild bergamot. Bee balm is a beautiful wildflower that ranges in color from purple to white to red, and it commonly grows in prairies and forest edges in Wisconsin. Bee balm blooms from June to August and can be spotted fairly easily thanks to its flowers, which grow in fluffy clusters on top of 2-5 foot tall green stems. The leaves of this flower have a striking minty scent, and have a history of being used in the past as medicine to treat colds and the flu.
Photo Credit: Adrienne Legault, The Spruce
Daisy fleabane is a small wildflower with a funny name, stemming from the false belief that, when dried, it could keep fleas at bay. But its beauty always made its way into my hand-picked bouquets. The flower reminded me of a smaller, fluffy version of a daisy and I loved their delicate look. Daisy fleabane looks just like my little mind described it, with a yellow center and thin white petals often referred to as rays. The tiny blooms occur throughout the summer months from June into September.
Photo Credit: Maria Young
Another Wisconsin wildflower that young me mistook for a different flower was the black-eyed Susan. The black-eyed Susan is a small flower with a dark brown center and yellow petals. Because of this coloration, I often referred to this flower as a sunflower as a child, as I’m sure many do. However, the flower is part of the same family as the sunflower, Asteraceae. The black-eyed Susan grows in prairies and forest edges, and blooms in July through October in Wisconsin. It’s a flower that brings a smile from summer into the fall months, a friendly face as the forest begins to turn golden.
Photo Credit: Maria Young
Next time you’re out on a woodland adventure, keep an eye out for these blooms and let us know what Wisconsin wildflowers you find! Share your photos with the hashtag #wildrivers on Facebook or Instagram for the chance to have your discovery featured on our social media.
For more information on these flowers and more, check out these resources:
Wisconsin Wildflower Photo Gallery: https://www.argobuilder.com/wisconsin-wildflower-photo-gallery.html
Online Virtual Flora of Wisconsin: https://wisflora.herbarium.wisc.edu/index.php
Wisconsin DNR Native Plant guide: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/endangeredresources/nativeplants.html
Wisconsin DNR Native Plants for Beginners: https://p.widencdn.net/tkykh8/NH0532