Not an Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Siberian squill

Hepatica is one of the earliest-blooming spring flowers and also one of the prettiest. I probably should have posted about them sooner, because while last week's featured Dutchman's breeches are still going strong, the patches of hepatica I found in mid-March were gone when I looked for them this week. After the jump I've posted a couple of photos and more information about this wildflower. CORRECTION: A knowledgeable reader tells me that what I photographed is not hepatica (rather, this is hepatica). What I saw is Siberian squill, a planted spring bulb. Even though I saw these flowers in the woods nowhere near anyone's garden, they could have been spread by deer movement.

Consider this a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

UPDATE: I decided to post an extra wildflower thread this week: dogtooth violets.

Hepatica comes in a variety of shapes and colors, according to the U.S. Forest Service website (click through for many beautiful photos).

In eastern North America, one of the most delightful early blooming species is hepatica (Hepatica nobilis). Its bright blue, white, or pink flowers warm the hearts of all who see them, as they shimmer in the rays of sunshine that reaches the forest floor thru the branches of the leafless trees of earliest springtime. The flowers may not fully open on a rainy day but even on cloudy days it is still quite a thrill to come across the subtle elegance of the partially opened flowers heralding the opening of the new season. The flowers have a fresh, delicate scent, their fragrance promises that spring is just around the corner.

Hepatica nobilis is a small evergreen herb found growing in rich woodlands from Minnesota to Maine to Northern Florida west to Alabama. The flowers are most commonly blue or lavender, although white forms may be common locally, especially in southern areas, and there may be various shades of pink. Each flower comes up from the ground on its own stem, which is covered by long fine hairs and is several inches tall. What appear to be the petals are technically the sepals and three bracts surround each flower. The number of sepals on each flower usually varies between six and twenty.

So, what looks like blue/purple petals on the photos below are sepals.

At first I wasn't sure that these were hepatica flowers, because the sepals look pointed at the end rather than rounded. The book Wildflowers of Iowa Woodlands by Sylvan T. Runkel and Alvin F. Bull states that hepatica can be found

throughout the state, usually on medium dry leaf-covered soils of wooded uplands. The round-lobed species prefers neutral to acid soils, while the sharp-lobed species prefers alkaline or high lime soils. Flowering time is March to June.

Runkel and Bull write that hepatica leaves have been used to treat "cough, lung ailments, indigestion, liver ailments, and even hemorrhoids." Chippewa and Meskwaki Indians made tea from powdered hepatica root and used it to treat convulsions, among other illnesses.

hepatica, Hepatica blooming in central Iowa, March 2012

hepatica, Hepatica blooming in central Iowa, March 2012

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