Stalking Native Wildflowers

There are native wildflowers and there are immigrant wildflowers. Most of the immigrant wildflowers have made themselves at home and show their status mostly by blooming and leafing out earlier than the native wildflowers.

Among the naturalized wildflowers blooming now are the daffodils, dead nettle and little corn speedwell. All of these are easy to find around my yard. The bright yellow of the daffodils is cheering on dark overcast and wet days.

Corn Speedwell
Corn speedwell started in Europe and spread worldwide. It likes lawn areas with short grass and blooms as soon as there are a few warm days. I’ve seen it in January.

Blue corn speedwell hints of the blue summer skies coming in a few months. Its early flowers are small as is the plant. The plant never gets much bigger, but the flowers double in size in a few weeks.

Dead nettle resembles stinging nettle without the bite. It’s furry, triangular leaves hang down around the purple tubular flowers sticking out. Bees, both native and Italian love it and appreciate its abundant nectar after winter’s lack of fodder.

Dead Nettle
A mint, dead nettle started in Europe and spread worldwide. It’s a favorite of bees in early spring. It germinates in fall and forms a root mat in the spring.

The early native wildflowers must be hunted down. These are the harbinger of spring or salt and pepper plants. It likes wet soil like that down along the river.

Harbinger of Spring, one of the native wildflowers
Harbinger of Spring is also called the Salt and Pepper plant. This is the first wildflower listed in wildflower guides and takes searching to find due to its small size.

The river is a half mile walk down the gravel road. With all the rain lately the river is up and it has changed its banks. The first time I walked down to look for these plants, the path along the bank was almost clear of logs, branches and other debris. Nothing, not even the bitter cress, was blooming.

bitter cress one of the native wildflowers
Bitter cress is the first cress to bloom in the Ozarks. It is in the Brassicaceae family and the leaves are edible, but bitter. The plant is small, less than eight inches tall, and grows in lawns, moist areas.

After another round of flooding, the river undercut trees along the bank so they have fallen into the river. Other trees have washed up on the bank. The area where I find harbinger of spring had been scoured and landmarks were gone.

These are small plants and easy to miss. I did finally find a few and they were in full bloom. The parade of wildflowers , both the immigrant and the native wildflowers has begun.

Meet more Ozark wildflowers in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.