MAY so close to the ground that it is easily over
MAY
April-May: Most of the wildflowers that bloom
in April and May are low, mat-forming plants
that hug the ground. Their flowers are hard to
see because they are only a few centimeters
high, but are visible because the prairie is bare
of other growing plants at this season. Look for
Prairie Crocus, Moss Phlox, Early Cinquefoil,
Three-flowered Avens, Early Blue Violet,
Golden Bean, Prairie Onion, Field Chickweed,
Pussytoes, Reflexed Rock Cress and the shrubs,
Saskatoon-berry, Chokecherry, and Gooseberry.
Prairie Crocus - Open Prairie
The Prairie Crocus
blooms before any other
wild flower, pushing up
its wooly green buds in
April when the sun
warms the soil. The
inconspicuous buds
open into showy laven-
der and yellow flowers blooming close to the
ground without trace of leaf or stem. The
flowers soon fade and produce feathery seeds
raised on a stalk to catch the wind, surrounded
by a clump of finely cut leaves that persist well
into summer.
Moss Phlox - Open Prairie
One of the earliest
wildflowers is Moss
Phlox, whose small
white-lavender, 5-
petaled flowers bloom
in groups on the
ground. Like most
prairie wildflowers in
May, the gray-green
Moss Phlox grows
so close to the ground that it is easily over-
looked. It is most noticeable when little
carpets of phlox flowers dot the prairie in May.
Early Cinquefoil - Open Prairie
About the time
the Prairie
Crocus flowers, |
Early Cinquefoil с
can be seen as a
rosette of wooly,
green leaves, |
tightly tucked N
together close to Y ) =
the ground. In
May bright yellow and orange, 5-petaled
flowers appear among the expanding rosette of
leaves. Early Cinquefoil is the first of the 7
species of cinquefoil to bloom at Saskatoon
Natural Grasslands, some yellow, others white.
Three-flowered Avens - Open Prairie
Another wild-
flower that will
first be noticed as a
green rosette of
leaves on the
brown spring
prairie, 1s the
Three-flowered
Aven. In mid-May,
flower stalks shoot
up from the
rosettes bearing the
3 drooping, rose-
colored flowers that give this plant its name.
These flowers raise their heads as the seeds,
each with a long feathery tail, mature. Where
these plants are numerous, the feathery seeds
look like a pink haze, giving this plant another
of its common names, Prairie Smoke.
Early Blue Violet - Throughout
Nestled in spots
protected by last year’s
dead vegetation, the
vibrant, purple-blue
flowers of Early Blue
Violet may catch your
eye. The plants are
small and compact, making them difficult to spot
until they flower. The small yellow-flowered
violet, Nuttall’s Violet, also blooms on the open
prairie in May.
Golden Bean - Open Prairie
The bright yellow flowers of the Golden Bean
are tall and showy compared to the other spring
wildflowers at Saska-
toon Natural Grasslands.
They appear in May,
often in large numbers,
as the prairie grasses
begin to turn green. The
large yellow flowers
look like pea flowers
and produce flat, curving
pods that remain on the plants throughout the
summer. (Not Edible)
Prairie Onion, Field Chickweed, Pussytoes
- Open Prairie
Three small, white wildflowers to look for in
May are Prairie Onion, Field Chickweed, and
Pussytoes. The Prairie
Onion, like a minia-
ture garden onion, has
thin grass-like leaves
which make 1t difficult
to see except when the
clusters of white
flowers bloom in mid-
May.
Flowers of
Saskatoon Natural Grasslands
Field Chickweed flowers look like white stars
scattered among the prairie grass from May to
July.
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Ny /
7 Field Chickweed
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uz
Pussytoes are very
low, gray-green
plants that grow in
mat-like patches on
the open prairie.
The flower stalks
grow several
centimeters above
the mats in May.
The clusters of
dense wooly heads
look like the
bottom of a cat’s paw, giving this plant its
name.
Reflexed Rock Cress - Open Prairie
The tall flower stalk
of Reflexed Rock
Cress blooms in early
May. The flowers are
small and white-
purple, and soon
develop into very
narrow pods that
resemble those of
mustard, to which it is
related. Unlike most
prairie wildflowers,
which are perennial,
this plant is biennial, flowering during the
second year of growth and then dying.
Shrubs
Several shrubs
and the tree,
Trembling
Aspen, flower
in May at
Saskatoon
Natural Grass-
lands.
Saskatoon-
berry, Pussy
Willow and
Trembling
Aspen flower
before they fully
leaf out and
their flowers
may be quite
noticeable.
Saskatoon-berry
Chokecherry,
Gooseberry and
Wild Black
Currant also
flower in May,
but after they leaf
out. The patches
of Saskatoon-
berry bushes,
largely ignored
except at berry
time, are trans-
formed when the
Gooseberry 5-petaled, apple-
blossom-like
flowers bloom on the nearly bare branches
in May.
The
Chokecherry
bush, with
many small
white
flowers in
long,
pendulous
clusters,
blooms
profusely in
late May or
early June.
Chokecherry
Common and Latin Names
Prairie Crocus Anemone patens
Moss Phlox Phlox hoodii
Early Cinquefoil Potentilla concinna
Three-flowered Avens Geum triflorum
Early Blue Violet Viola adunca
Golden Bean Thermopsis rhombifolia
Prairie Onion Allium textile
Field Chickweed Cerastium arvense
Pussytoes Antennaria species
Reflexed Rock Cress — Arabis holboelii
Trembling Aspen Populus tremuloides
Saskatoon-berry Amelanchier alnifolia
Pussy Willow Salix discolor
Chokecherry Prunus virginiana
Gooseberry Ribes oxyacanthoides
Wild Black Currant Ribes americanum
Credits
This brochure was made possible with
funds and logistical support from the
Saskatchewan Natural History Society and
from the University of Saskatchewan,
Extension Division.
Gordon Silversides coordinated, Marilyn
Neufeld did the typing, and Elfie Hall did
the layout for graphics and text.
Original illustrations were prepared by
Anna Leighton; additional illustrations are
reprinted with permission from Budd's
Flora of the Canadian Prairie Provinces,
Living Prairie Museum (Winnipeg,
Manitoba), and Diane Magill and Carol
Morgan of Prairie Habitat (Argyle,
Manitoba).
Anna Leighton wrote the text, supported by
Dr. Vern Harms, who prepared two plant
lists for the Saskatoon Natural Grasslands
which were formerly known also as the
Silverspring Prairie Preserve.
Sources
The following books were the primary sources
used in preparing the text, and are recommended
for further reading:
Prairie Wildflowers by Lloyd T. Carmichael.
Wildflowers Across the Prairie by F. R.
Vance, J. R. Jowsey and J. S. McLean.
Budd's Flora of the Canadian Prairie
Provinces by J. Looman and K. F. Best.
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