Bluebells and other wildflowers

Last weekend we took a drive down to Shaw Nature Reserve, specifically to see the wildflowers. We'd normally go in a couple more weeks, but I got an email from the Missouri Botanical Garden saying that our early spring meant that the blooms were in full-swing right now!


So off we went for a few hours of hiking, with a goal of getting to the bluebells field down by the river.


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As you can see from the photo above we made it, but there were many distractions along the way. The main issue: the road that gets you closest to the river is closed on weekends, so that doubled or tripled the distance we'd need to hike. Good thing we brought snacks and plenty of water.

The reserve was nearly empty of visitors this day so we weren't interrupted by other hikers too often, which meant that we could take our time -- I could stop and kneel down for photos at any time too. Here's what I saw along to way to the bluebells (I wish I could identify all of these -- I'll have to come back and edit after doing some research):







Most of the hike was through forested areas, and these early spring bloomers take advantage of the sunlight they get only at this time of year -- they'll soon be in full shade as the trees leaf out. All of these were quite small flowers -- nothing big and showy in this forest, at least at this time of year.

Hike, hike, hike, hike...

The last stretch of the hike before getting down to the river bottoms on the "overlook trail" is a steep path down from the top of a bluff. Years before we hiked this in the other direction, turning it into a climb -- we're older and wiser now. Still, this is where I first saw celandine poppies, and there were still loads of them on this amazing hillside:

Celandine poppy


The photo doesn't do it justice. How about a panorama?

click for much larger size

That's better, but still -- it was just amazing in person. My new favorite spot in the reserve, at least at this time of year!

A few minutes later we were down near the river, with the bluebells field in front of us. Wow.

Before I get ahead of myself, here's what Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) look like if you're not familiar:




Most looked like this: start pink and turn a pale blue

There are thousands upon thousands of these plants here, and with such a large collection you're bound to see some variations -- and I did:

white bluebells?

pink bluebells?

very intense blue -- now that's a BLUEbell!

So here's what the whole field looks like, as best as I can show you:


click for BIG version

Even that panorama doesn't give the full impact. How about a video?

Here's a look as I pan across the field of bluebells. (My video camera stopped working in a bad "this is going to cost money" way so I had to rely on my phone for video):


I wish the phone had picked up sounds better. Even though it was very quiet in here -- not even a wind rustle or bird to be heard -- there were bumble bees buzzing by every once in a while. One flew right past the camera, but you can't hear it in the video. Ah well.

Bluebells have only a slight fragrance, but in this concentration the air was wonderful and sweet -- not overpowering though.

Even though it started raining as our hike back to the car neared its end, this was a great trip to Shaw Nature Reserve -- the bluebells alone were worth the hike!


(Note: I visited Shaw Nature Reserve last fall too -- click here to see that post.)

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Gerhard Bock  – (March 27, 2012 at 12:26 PM)  

Stunning photos!! I'm glad you made the hike to show this marvelous place to all of us.

My favorite: the celandine poppy. I tried to grow one once but it didn't make it.

TheGardeningBlog  – (March 28, 2012 at 5:59 PM)  

Loved the panoramas and the video. What a magical place. How privileged we are to live in this world. Lovely.

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