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A Fairy Tale Forest: Part I

Bloodroot, spring beauty and Dutchman’s breeches are just a few of Southern Indiana's beautiful spring ephemerals.

  • A fairy tale forest

    Image 1 of 5

    Southern Indiana forests capture the fairy-tale beauty of many spring blooms.

  • Bloodroot in full bloom.

    Image 2 of 5

    Bloodroot is a member of the poppy family and only blooms once a year.

  • Roots of bloodroot emitting a red sap

    Image 3 of 5

    The red sap emitted from the roots of a bloodroot is used for making fabric dye.

  • Spring beauty in full bloom

    Image 4 of 5

    Claytonia awakens after a deep winter slumber to display white-pink flowers.

  • Dutchmans breeches in full bloom

    Image 5 of 5

    Photo: Kim Elsenbroek

    Dutchmans breeches are so named because these tiny plants look like tiny pants.

Intro to Indiana Forest Preserves:

Bloomington Ind., home of the Hoosiers, sits atop the Indiana Highland Rim Natural Region. This geography is due to the Wisconsin Glacial Maximum, our most recent glacial resident, did not crush the land of Southern Indiana.

This allowed Bloomington to grow into a highly diverse, rugged landscape not shaped by glaciers from above, but the exposed bedrock below.

The Indiana Highland Rim Natural Region not only puts Bloomington on the map in Indiana, but also the whole state itself when considering North American Landforms.

So now that we know how special our area is on a large scale, I’m going to reveal some of the spring treasures that lie within it.

 Bloodroot:

Grows in moist lowland woods.

Flowers: March-April.

Located: Yellowood State Forest

A member of the poppy family, this plant has a picturesque white flower, blooming only once a year, just for a day.

This special plant gets its name from the deep red sap emitted from its roots (and the rest of the plant). Used historically and currently for dying fabric, bloodroot can be found in your toothpaste as an anti-plaque ingredient. Bloodroot even has its own book written in its name.

Bloodroot in full bloom.

Photo: Matt Jones (Flickr)

Bloodroot is a member of the poppy family and only blooms once a year.

Roots of bloodroot emitting a red sap

Photo: American Medical Botany (Flickr)

The red sap emitted from the roots of a bloodroot is used for making fabric dye.

Spring Beauty:

Grows in moist woods/lawns.

Flowers: March-June.

Located: IUB campus or Bryan Park

From sleeping beauty to spring beauty, Claytonia awakens after a deep winter slumber to display white-pink flowers. A delicate plant turned delicacy spring beauty was consumed by Native Americans and settlers. Their tiny tuberous roots were eaten raw or cooked as a potato substitute while the leaves were used to garnish salads.

Deer, rodents and turkey also have an affinity for utilizing spring beauty as a source of nutrition, so if you have these beauties in your yard keep an eye out for browsers.

Spring beauty in full bloom

Photo: Jane Shotaku (Flickr)

Claytonia awakens after a deep winter slumber to display white-pink flowers.

Dutchmans breeches in full bloom

Photo: Kim Elsenbroek

Dutchmans breeches are so named because these tiny plants look like tiny pants.

 Dutchman’s breeches:

Found in: Moist woods at the bottom of slopes.

Flowers: March-May

Located: Paynetown

Like tiny pants hung to dry by Borrowers, these “breeches-shaped” flowers can be found dangling from a slender stem in the forests of southern Indiana. Equipped with fern-like leaves, the breeches are easy to spot on a casual walk through our local forests. Interestingly, these pants-shaped plants were included in an ointment used by Native Americans to increase the limberness in the legs of athletes. Be aware, however, that these adorable pants plants are poisonous and can cause skin rashes.

So there you have it. A brief guide to some of Southern Indiana’s most common spring ephemerals. Now go take a hike and check out the fairy-tale beauty of the spring blooms.

[photo 6]

Sources Cited:

Huffman, M. A. H. and H. The Natural Heritage of Indiana. 167– 171, (Quarry Books, 1997).

Homoya, M. A. The Natural Heritage of Indiana. 159–160 (Quarry Books, 1997).

 

Kim Elsenbroek

I am a trained scientist aspiring to communicate science to the general public. I received my B.S. in Botany from Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) in spring of 2012 and my M.S. from Indiana University Bloomington. I have conducted research in sustainability, ecological restoration, invasive species control and outreach/education. I have worked with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, McHenry County Conservations District, SIUC, IUB and now the Nature Conservancy.

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