Round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa) is one of the first wildflowers to appear in Minnesota woodlands in the spring. In early April it can be identified by the rounded, purple, three-lobed leaves laying flat on the ground. These are leaves that have overwintered from the previous year. The name hepatica is Latin for liver, and refers to the shape and color of the leaves, which resemble the human liver.
By the time the flowers appear the overwintered leaves are dying back. The flowers have from 5 to 12 white, pale pink, or pale blue petal-like sepals (usually 6), up to 30 white stamens, and a green center.
After the flowers have bloomed new green leaves emerge from the base on densely hairy stalks. The leaves are divided into 3 lobes shallowly cut to near the middle of the blade. The lobes are rounded at the tip. When young they are densely hairy with long, soft, shaggy hairs. As they age they become hairless or almost hairless.
Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) is common and abundant shrub of northern wetlands. It occurs throughout northern Europe and Asia and northern North America. In Minnesota it occurs in the north-central and northeast regions south to the Metro region. It is found in open areas in bogs, marshes, swamps, and floodplains, and on riverbanks and lakeshores. It grows under full sun in acidic, nutrient-poor soils. It is the dominant shrub of dwarf shrub wetland communities.
Leatherleaf is a perennial, evergreen, dwarf shrub. It can be 8″ to 60″ tall but is usually no more than 40″ in height. It often forms dense thickets. The stems have many stiff, wiry branches. The leaves often point upward from the stem. The leaf underside is densely covered with white or rust-colored scales. The inflorescence is an unbranched cluster of up to 20 small flowers hanging downward at the end of the stem and branches. The white, urn-shaped flowers appear from early May through mid-June. Flattened globe-shaped fruits ripen in the fall and remain on the plant through the winter.
Northern purple pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea) is an easily recognized, long-lived, carnivorous plant. There are no other plants in Minnesota that even vaguely resemble it. It occurs in the United States from Maine to New Jersey west to Minnesota, in Washington State, and throughout southern Canada. It is found in bogs, fens, swamps and peatlands. It grows under full sun in sphagnum moss or in soil that has both peat and sand. It obtains most of its nutrients from captured insects. The soil it grows in is nutrient-poor and usually acidic, and cannot support many other plants. Individual plants can live up to 50 years in favorable conditions. However, its population has been declining due to habitat loss and possibly to nitrogen deposition from air pollution.
Northern purple pitcherplant rises on a radiating rosette of 6 to 10 leaves and a single flowering stem. It often forms dense clumps, sometimes floating masses at the edges of bog ponds and lakes. The leaves are modified into pitchers with an erect hood at the top and an orifice that is open to the sky, allowing it to collect rainwater. The inner surface of the hood is covered with numerous, stiff, downward-pointing hairs. The solitary flower is purplish-red and droops at the end of a long leafless stalk.
Hampton Woods Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Dakota County is one of Minnesota’s newest WMAs. Designated on July 14, 2017, it came about through the collaborative efforts of the Minnesota DNR, Dakota County, Friends of the Mississippi River, and local landowners. It provides protection for the largest contiguous oak forest and one of the largest remaining wooded areas in Dakota County. Surrounded by mostly farm land, it is the only forest for miles and provides critical habitat for migrating birds. The Minnesota Biological Survey gives most of this WMA an Outstanding Biodiversity Significance rank.
There is some new plant growth to be seen this weekend (April 18-19, 2020), including numerous individual wild leeks, small clumps of fragrant bedstraw, small tufts of woodland sedges, large patches of cut-leaved toothwort, and a few lonely bloodroot. The cut-leaved toothwort and bloodroot had unopened buds on Friday, but those buds may produce the first spring flowers on Saturday or Sunday. Seventeen bird species were spotted on Friday, including migrating Yellow-rumped Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.