Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve

Shenks Ferry WF Bluebell_5526 aCan you imagine life as a spring ephemeral wildflower? You’ve lain dormant for months, through the summer heat and the cold days of winter. As the weather begins to warm, you awaken. You have a few short weeks to do all your work for the year. Leaf out, feed, bloom, reproduce and set seed; all need to be accomplished before the tree canopy above you leafs out and blocks precious sunlight, and the air turns hot. Better get busy!     Virginia Bluebell, above.

Shenks Ferry WF Trillium_5796acsShenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve, along the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, is well-known for its variety of wildflowers. Over 70 different species bloom in the spring, with another 60 peaking during the summer.     Trillium.

Shenks Ferry WF Spring Beauty_5779 aDon’t expect a cultivated garden if you visit, though. Oh no! This is a wild woodland glen whose main trail traces the path of creek valley. Wildflowers, many tiny, are scattered along the forest floor under the trees, tucked away in the lush understory. Finding these little beauties is worth the effort though.     Spring Beauty.

Shenks Ferry WF Bluebell_5973aI thought learning to identify different bird species was tough, but it’s nothing compared to plants. I’ve only been studying identification for two years or so, and I’m trying to learn birds, plants, trees, dragonflies, butterflies and lots of other critters  – all at the same time.

I’ve tried to put common names to as many of these flowers as I can. If I’ve identified something incorrectly, or not at all, and you know its proper name, PLEASE leave a comment!

Virginia Bluebells and Wild Columbine.

Shenks Ferry WF_5754acsIn most cases I’ve only gotten as far as a family or genus name, not the individual species. For instance, this is a Violet. Which one, I have no idea.

Shenks Ferry WF_5587 aI think this might be another Violet.

Or something else entirely.

In identifying plants, the flower is the first classification to make (which can be a problem if the plant isn’t in bloom). The next step is to classify the plant itself (wildflower, shrub, vine) and then look at the leaves.

Don’t let the leaves in this photo fool you; they’re from two different plants.Shenks Ferry WF Squirrel Corn_5597a



Here’s Squirrel Corn.

At first I had it labeled as Dutchman’s Breeches, then I looked at Wild Bleeding Heart.

All three plants are in the Dicentra genus, so they’re cousins, and near look-alikes.

Shenks Ferry Morel_5607 acsThis isn’t a wildflower, but a mushroom known as a morel. It will be as short-lived as the spring ephemerals.

Shenks Ferry WF_5605 aI have no idea. Do you?

Shenks Ferry WF Wild Geranium_5883acs copyWild Geranium.

Shenks Ferry WF_5731 aDoes anyone know this lovely lady’s name?

Once the heat sets in, and the trees cast permanent shade, your time to get productive work done has passed. Is this the end for you? Not at all. Though your flowers and perhaps your leaves will wither, you have firm roots in the soil. Like all ephemeral wildflowers, you will go dormant, sleeping away the passing seasons until spring arrives and you blossom anew.

Shenks Ferry WF Bluebell_5998 acs