Tiger lily (Lillium columbianum). Watercolor by Carolyn Newberger

Illuminating the Hidden Forest, Chapter 48: Wildflowers

During this terrible time of police violence, protest, burning cities and pandemic, these woodland flowers call me to them like shelter in a storm.

To read the previous chapters of ‘Illuminating the Hidden Forest,’ click here.

May 30, 2020

As I walk through the forest on these late spring days, I see wildflowers opening their faces to the world day by day. During this terrible time of police violence, racial injustice, protest, burning cities and pandemic, these woodland flowers call me to them like shelter in a storm.

Each flower is lovely in its own way. Although I take their photos, when I return home, I search my wildflower books for their common and Latin names. Names are important for memory, both for the living and for the dead.

Here are some of the wildflowers that I find on my walks in the woods.

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) on Balance Rock. Photo: Carolyn Newberger

I’ve been following this delicate flower with its jaunty pink cap since late March, when I spotted its first tender leaves peeking from a crevasse in Balance Rock in Kennedy Park. Now it waves improbably in the breeze, in full and exuberant bloom.

Canadian lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis) on Balance Rock trail. Photo: Carolyn Newberger

Canadian lousewort grows on a ridge on Balance Rock trail in only one spot that I have found. It begins with a low whorl of fuzzy, purple leaves begging to be stroked, then erupts like fireworks into a swirling yellow blossom.

Early dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana glabrous). Photo: Carolyn Newberger

Such a humble name for such an enchanting flower, the softest purple-blue like tiny trumpet clusters, nestled against rocks on the forest floor.

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia). Photo: Carolyn Newberger

Foamflowers’ tiny white blossoms climbing slender stalks look insubstantial, but massed together, they can create fields of white, like clouds blowing in the breeze.

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum). Photo: Carolyn Newberger

Wild geraniums are abundant, their cut leaves and simple pink faces greeting me around every turn, like good friends, always there.

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum). Photo: Carolyn Newberger

Jack-in-the-pulpit is a shy plant. It grows quietly in shady spots, hiding tiny male and female flowers on a column, called a spadex, within its hood.

Wild lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum canadence). Photo: Carolyn Newberger

Wild lily-of-the-valley spreads in shady places low to the ground, with short batons of tiny flower clusters nestled within two glossy heart-shaped leaves.

Alpine aster (Aster alpinus). Photo: Carolyn Newberger

And finally, the alpine aster shines its face to the sun. Its purple ray of petals surrounds a brilliant golden center, their complementary colors creating a visual vibration.

Each of these flowers is an individual, occupying a unique place and purpose, bringing delight to the eye and freshness to the spirit.