New England is very fortunate, as the region is home to an extremely wide range of wildflowers. From beautiful trilliums, to the rare yellow pitcher plant, New England hosts habitats for many different species that vary dramatically from one another. The trick to finding wildflowers, especially rare ones, is knowing where to look and what habitat to observe. Areas that may appear empty one week can be teeming with a desired species the next, all it takes is a trained eye…
One of the more common species of wildflower is Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) which can be found in rich forest environments. These flowers take advantage of the lack of foliage in the canopy as many of the tree species have not grown leaves yet. It got its name from its flower, whose appearance looks like pantaloons that have been turned upside down (source: Kaufman).
Spring is a time where many delicate and rare wildflowers begin to bloom. One gem of the woods is the yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum). While trout lily as a species is common, its flowers are actually very rare, with one percent of plants harboring flowers each year. The species can be found in damp woodlands, its flower often being seen before the leaves from the tree canopy fully develop, a strategy used by many wildflowers of the region.
Another gem of the deep woodland habitat is jack-in-the-pulpit. The “flower” is located inside the “pulpit” or spade, a pouch structure with an overhanging hood almost acting as a lid. The species’ roots were often harvested by native Americans and used for medicinal properties. The leaves, however, should be left alone and can lead to a nasty stomach ache if digested. These flowers bloom in early spring and can be found in bogs and wetlands.
Red trillium (Trillium erectrum) is another plant found in this type of habitat and often noticeable by its unusual leaf morphology. The leaves go around the entire plant in close proximity to each other, known as a whorled arrangement. During its brief spring blooming period, red trillium boasts a deep red flower that can occasionally even be seen as purple. This is why depending on the source, Trillium erectum is sometimes known as purple trillium.
Lady’s slipper (Cypripedium spp) is a rare find and a heavily sought after flower. This beautiful wildflower is in the orchid family and is easily identifiable by its “slipper like” flower that droops downward. This wildflower takes years to grow into a mature plant and removing this flower from its habitat is heavily discouraged. Another relatively rare sight in New England are carnivorous plants such as pitcher plants. The purple pitcher plant is the more likely of the species to be found in New England as it is a northern species. The yellow pitcher plant is native to southeastern United States and is generally taller than its purple cousins.
Easton has an abundant habitat full of marshes, meadows and woodlands that harbor many species of wildflower. Keep an eye out for these amazing creatures on your next walk through the woods. For those who don’t know where to start, Easton and the region contain a wide variety of trails and natural areas. Explore some of the trails to find wildlife through the Aspetuck Land Trust preserves, or explore trails through the Connecticut Forest and Park Association.
For more nature photos, fun facts, and environmental entries, you might like to follow my nature photography Instagram, @tomaskoeckhttps://www.instagram.com/tomaskoeck/.