From Time to Thyme

By Paula Dunn

Got a case of spring fever? I have just the remedy for you!

The Blatchley Nature Study Club will be holding their annual Spring Wildflower Walks next Saturday, April 15th, and again on April 29. The April 15th date has been scheduled to catch early blooming wildflowers. The April 29 walk is for wildflowers that tend to bloom later.

Guided tours will be available both days, any time between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. They’re free and open to the public — just remember to wear comfortable walking shoes.

Of course, the exact varieties of wildflowers in bloom during each walk depends upon the whims of Mother Nature, but I asked Blatchley Club member Tess Park for a few examples of what MIGHT be encountered.

(Tess really knows her wildflowers. She recently wrote a book about them, “Common Spring Woodland Wildflowers in the Midwest: A Pocket Guide,” which she describes as “a beginner-intermediate identifying aid.”)

Tess sent me the names of several early bloomers that — provided the weather cooperates — visitors may find at Blatchley next Saturday.

Among her examples are: Virginia bluebells with their gorgeous blue flowers, yellow swamp buttercups, both yellow and white trout lilies, pink wild geraniums and two types of trilliums — prairie and large-flowered. Prairie trilliums have a small reddish-purple flower, while the large-flowered trilliums are white.

She also sent a list of later bloomers that might be seen on the April 29th walk. They include: pink and white shooting stars; lavender wild hyacinths; mayapples, which have a white flower and leaves that look like little umbrellas; and jack-in-the-pulpits with their distinctive hooded flower that resembles a preacher in a pulpit.

Those are just some of the spring wildflowers that can be found at the Blatchley sanctuary. According to Tess, Blatchley has about the largest collection of wildflowers in central Indiana!

I’ve visited Blatchley myself several times, so I’m going to add a few more plants I always seem to spot when I’m there.

Remember the wild ginger I mentioned in the column about the Herb of the Year? There are several patches of wild ginger at Blatchley. Their big, heart-shaped leaves make them easy to identify even when they’re not blooming.

Dutchman’s breeches are another wildflower I’ve often seen. The plant’s white flowers resemble miniature pairs of pantaloons hanging upside down. That’s how it got its name.

Another wildflower I usually encounter is squirrel corn, which can be mistaken for Dutchman’s breeches. There is a close resemblance, but squirrel corn’s flowers are more heart-shaped.

Then there’s skunk cabbage, with its large flat leaves. I’ve never actually seen it blooming because that takes place in late winter, but maybe that’s a good thing. When it’s blooming, it’s supposed to smell like rotting flesh!

Wildflowers aren’t the only interesting sights along Blatchley’s trails. The sanctuary is also a good place for birdwatching, insect watching and critter watching in general.

I’m particularly fascinated by the six-spotted green tiger beetles. Their brilliant metallic green color makes them resemble little jewels.

And I’ve never been to Blatchley that I didn’t look down from the bluff overlooking White River and see at least a half dozen turtles sunning themselves on an old log that extends out into the water.

The Blatchley sanctuary is located a little north of Potter’s Bridge at 125 Boulder Drive. From Cumberland Road, turn west on Edith Avenue, the first road north of the river, then follow the signs to Boulder Drive.

Thanks to Ed Snyder and Tess Park for their help on the column.

(Tess says she’ll have copies of her book for sale at the April 15th walk. If you can’t make it to Blatchley that day, though, both a print and a digital edition are available from Amazon.)

-Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at [email protected]