First Wildflowers Appear
The first native wildflower of the year has emerged through the snow in the Wisconsin Native Wildflower Garden in Irvine Park. Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) uses a special property called “thermogenesis” to heat the nearby soil enabling it to be one of Spring’s earliest bloomers. It is growing in the boggy area along the west side of the trail above the native garden where the huge basswood tree crosses the trail.
First the green outer coverings of the Skunk cabbage flowers push through the ground and open to expose the brown to purple 3”-6” flower spathes. When each flower spathe opens completely, you can see a club-like spike covered with tiny yellow florets. Skunk cabbage exudes a strong odor of decaying flesh to attract early flying insects that smell something carrion-like and inadvertently pollinate the flowers.
Started in 2010, the Wisconsin Native Wildflower Garden in Irvine Park is a project of Lake Wissota Garden Club. The garden, located in the “Hollow” next to the sand volleyball pit and south of the duck pond, now contains 130 native WI wildflowers and shrubs. At least 20 varieties are in bloom at all times from late May through mid-September.
Irvine Park visitors can take a self-guided tour of the WI Native Wildflower Garden anytime during the growing season. Natives “in bloom” will be marked with signs listing the common & botanical name.
Guided tours will be available on Irvine Park’s special event days and on LWGC workdays in the garden. Horticulture groups wanting a docent led tour should contact project chair Ginger Wierman at 715-720-9092.