Wildflowers along the Military Ridge Trail

On my long walk on the central portion of the Military Ridge Trail I saw so many wildflowers that I decided to write this separate post to highlight the variety. My walk started at a trailhead at Pikes Peak Rd and ended 19½ miles east at another trailhead near Riley. Details about the route and non-wildflower sightings are in the companion post. Fortunately for such a long-distance walk, there was relatively little elevation change, and when I’m busy taking pictures I’m taking my time with the walk itself.

It was neat to see so many different wildflowers. I am not an expert, but I think I have correctly identified most of them; if any readers have corrections, please post comments – and thank you in advance.

I saw several common roadside flowers, such as chicory and knapweed, along with Virginia creeper. Here I will focus on other flowers: some first-timers for me, a California resident, even if they’re relatively common in Wisconsin.

One of the first flowers I noticed had a pretty 5-petal yellow blossom, later identified as St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). I have been a little fascinated by the wort family, so it was nice to finally see and (later) identify one.

photo of St John’s wort

St John’s wort

I think I’ve seen the common mullein (Verbascum thapsis) on several occasions, but I’m always struck by how tall the flower stalks are, and how small the blossoms are.

picture of common mullein

Common mullein

Queen Anne’s lace, or wild carrot (Daucus carota), is quite common, but I’m just learning to identify it among the other candidate wildflowers that have what I refer to as a canopy of tiny white blossoms.

image of Queen Anne’s lace

Queen Anne’s lace

I particularly took note of the long, slender “whiskers” beneath the blossom canopy. Earlier in my hike I had encountered another specimen, at an earlier stage before the canopy opens up. Here the whiskers are quite prominent, and they were actually what initially captured my attention.

photo of Queen Anne’s lace bud

Queen Anne’s lace bud

Another wildflower I saw in many places along the trail was creeping bellflower (Campanula raspunculoides). This plant grows long stalks, almost like a vine – probably why the term creeping is in its name! – and has rows of pretty, bell-like blossoms.

picture of creeping bellflower

Creeping bellflower

I also saw this next wildflower in several places along the trail, and had more difficulty with the identification. I think that’s because there is some variation, so my pictures did not tend to look exactly like the ones I found on-line. In the end, I think it is called butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris), also called common toadflax.

image of butter-and-eggs, or common toadflax

Butter-and-eggs, or common toadflax

In addition to the creeping bellflower, another bellflower I saw is called tall bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum), or American bellflower. Here the petals are flat rather than in a bell shape when the flower is open.

photo of tall bellflower

Tall bellflower

I saw just one example of the white campion (Silene latifolia), but it immediately caught my attention. I had visited southeastern Wisconsin numerous times when I was very young, for summertime visits with my grandparents. My siblings and I played with this flower in our grandpa’s yard in Big Bend, where there were plenty of “volunteers” growing. All these years later I remember shaking the seed pods to rattle the seeds around, and popping the pods open to release the seeds.

picture of white campion

White campion

Besides the common mullein, another tall-stalked yellow flower that I saw is this one, I think called common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis). This identification is a little tentative since I found a couple of very different-looking wildflowers on-line with the same name. Apparently the common evening primrose flowers are closed during the day and open up during the evening. (I didn’t know this at the time I saw it, and in any case I didn’t have time to wait until evening to see what happened!)

image of common evening primrose (I think)

Common evening primrose (I think)

While passing through the village of Mt Horeb I noticed a pretty pink flower with large, showy leaves. In the picture you can see that the edges of the leaves have spikes that, in some cases, point almost perpendicular to the main leaf surface. Initially I tried to identify it as a wildflower but I’ve been unsuccessful, and wonder if it is actually a garden flower escapee. (Update: after further research, I think it is Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), or policeman’s helmet. Unfortunately, it is considered to be an invasive weed: unfortunate, since the flowers are very pretty!)

photo of pink flower with spiky leaves: Himalayan balsam

Pink flower with spiky leaves: Himalayan balsam

Another flower that I noticed only once is a small, light purple flower with 4 petals called dame’s rocket (Herperis matronalis) (with many alternative common names). The blossoms were about 1 cm across.

picture of dame’s rocket

Dame’s rocket

In the last few miles I noted numerous Turk’s cap lilies (either Lilium superbum or Lilium michigansense). The flower shape is quite distinctive, and I think it’s very pretty.

image of Turk’s cap lily

Turk’s cap lily

Finally, there were some yellow daisy-like wildflowers. I think they are called false sunflower, or oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides), though there are some actual sunflowers that look – to my untrained eye – rather similar.

photo of false sunflower, or oxeye

False sunflower, or oxeye

Seeing so many wildflowers during my walk certainly added to my enjoyment. And trying to identify them afterward has been an interesting challenge. One reason I post some of my pictures is that doing so kind of forces me to try to make identifications, and then it helps me to remember them. This is also true of geographic landmarks such as peaks.

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2 Responses to Wildflowers along the Military Ridge Trail

  1. Pingback: Military Ridge Trail – Pikes Peak Rd to Riley | trailhiker

  2. Pingback: Military Ridge Trail – Pikes Peak Rd to Dodgeville | trailhiker

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