Friends of the Wild Flower Garden

Early Spring in the Wild Flower Garden

by Martha Crone

Martha Crone

Background: Martha Crone had volunteered her time helping Eloise Butler in the Wildflower Garden for about 15 years prior to Eloise's death. In 1933 Martha became Temporary Curator of the Garden, made permanent in 1940, retaining that position until 1959. She wrote many articles and columns about plants and the Garden. She was editor of the Fringed Gentian™, the newsletter of The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc., from the first issue in 1953 until her retirement from the Friends Board of Directors in 1971. The historic photos shown here were taken by Martha for use in illustrated lectures she gave to many groups in the 1950s. We have added recent photos of some of the plants referenced in her story. Some of the plants she refers to are no longer in the Garden (Photos of some of those that she writes of are shown at the bottom of the page).


Snow Trillium
Above - Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale), from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone on April 19, 1952.

The longer days of spring with their additional warm sunlight and mellow south winds are warming the moist earth and again stirring life anew. It is due to the uplift this magic season gives to the human spirit after a long winter, that the first wild flowers are so treasured. Who does not love the sweet fragrance of rain-wet leaf mold, mosses and green growing things in the spring?

The first blossom to appear is that of the dainty Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale) a miniature of the later blooming Large-flowered Trillium, altho the plant is barely a few inches tall the blossoms are several inches across. They bloom and bring beauty and cheer even while patches of snow still remain in sheltered areas where the winters sun never penetrated.

While in the bog the interesting, yet unpleasantly scented Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is one of the first bold adventurers above ground, sometimes pushing through snow and ice. This lowly plant is related to our beautiful Calla Lily. These are soon followed by number of our best loved flowers of spring, such as Bloodroot, Spring Beauty, Dutchman’s-breeches, Bellwort, Anemone, and others. The sunny side of the marsh is a mass of clusters of golden Marsh Marigold. [some shown in photos below]

Skunk Cabbage
Above - Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) with leaves just emerging.

The lovely blue, pink, lavender, and white of Hepaticas last but a short time as do many other early spring flowers, yet they make a beautiful tapestry of color on the west hillside.

Hepatica Hill
Above: Hepatica Hill on April 16, 1955, from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone on April 19, 1952.

Double Bloodroot
Bloodroot (rare double) (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba)
Dutchman's Breeches
Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra Cucullaria)

A never failing delight is Violet Trail which is fringed with a profusion of yellow, blue, and white violets. Here later bloom five species of Lady’s-slippers (Cypripedium) including the Showy Lady‘s-slipper, the Minnesota State Flower, the glory of all the Cypripediums. An extensive bed presents an almost tropical appearance. In a sheltered nook are a number of shrubs that have been naturalized in the Garden. Mountain Laurel, Azalea and Rhododendron of the Heath family. They have faired well for five years so there is scant reason why they should not continue to thrive. Other notable spring flowers to bloom in the forest intent on making the most of the sunshine before the leafy canopy blots it our are Trout lily, Jacob’s Ladder, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Geranium, Columbine, Clintonia, Ginger, Mandrake, Foam-flower, Ginseng, Mertensia, Trailing Arbutus and ten species of Trillium. [some photo below]

Historic bog path

This photo (above) taken by Martha Crone on May 31, 1952, shows a field of Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) growing along the path leading into the wetland of the Woodland Garden. Such a large planting does not exist today.


Yellow Trout Lily
Yellow Trout-lily (Erythronium americanum)
Foam Flower
Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia).
Wild Geraniu,
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Upland Hill Side
The Upland Garden from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone in May 1948 four years after it's acquisition

One of the loveliest sights in the garden after a gentle spring rain is the pushing through the ground of young fronds of fern, each rolled up like a miniature fiddle-head, Great numbers of Ostrich Ferns, Royal Ferns, Interrupted Ferns and Cinnamon Ferns in addition to 35 other species of ferns are well distributed throughout the garden.

Soon the spring arrivals give way to the myriads of summer flowers which steadily progress through the summer and fall. Each day new patterns and new color combinations appear. Here, in this garden you are surrounded with the most entrancing wonders of nature created to bring infinite peace and happiness, and may we pass it on unspoiled for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations.

A Lupine field in the Upland Garden from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone on May 31, 1946, two years after the acquisition.

[Martha Crone retired from the Curator position in 1959 and from the position of editor of the Fringed Gentian™ in 1971. In total she had contributed 53 years of service to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden.]

Shown below are six plants mentioned by Martha Crone that are no longer extant in the Garden.

Pasque Flower
Pasque flower (Anemone patens) Photo ©G D Bebeau
American Gingseng
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) ©Dennis W. Woodland, Wisconsin Flora
Ground plum Milkvetch (Astragalus crassicarpus) Photo ©Derek Anderson, Wisconsin Flora
Prairie Crowfoot
Prairie Crowfoot (Ranunculus rhomboideus) ©Derek Anderson, Wisconsin Flora
Hoary Puccoon
Hoary Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum). ©Merles R. Black, Wisconsin Flora
Virginia Spring Beauty
Virginia Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) ©G D Bebeau

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