Wildflowers announce the good news that spring has arrived.
Take a trek in southeastern Wisconsin to search for delicate orchids and other wildflowers. © Donna Krischan
About this time of year most everyone is looking for signs that winter has truly loosened its frigid grip upon the landscape. Some say winter is down for the count when the first robin of the year flits by the feeder. Others insist the freezin' season makes its grand farewell only after lake ice breaks up, engulfing shanties belonging to sundry and assorted procrastinators, laggards, and the perpetually unaware.
The sight of a delicate pasqueflower pushing through the remnants of snow gets TRAVELER's vote for winter's real sayonara. To help you catch these and other spring blossoms at their peak, we asked Don Quintenz at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Milwaukee to direct us to the best wildflower viewing sites in southeast Wisconsin:
North Prairie Cedar Glade & Oak Opening
Located in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Eagle, this habitat bursts into bloom with pasque and prairie smoke flowers from late March to early May. (262) 594-6200.
These maple-beech woods are known for spectacular spring wildflower displays in early May. Look for spring beauties, Dutchman's breeches, hepatica and wild geraniums. The woodland is five miles northwest of Racine. (262) 595-3221.
Cedarburg Bog and Beech Woods
Visit these woodland habitats for early May wildflowers. Wild orchids, including the yellow lady's slipper and showy lady's slipper, reveal their beauty later, toward the end of May and into early June, in the bog and cedar swamp. Only groups are given access to these sites, which are used as a research area for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee biology and conservation students and staff. Call (262) 675-6844 to make an appointment.
Kohler-Andrae State Park
The park's beach and lake dune habitat comes alive with rare and showy sand-loving wildflowers in late spring. Kohler-Andrae is located four miles south of Sheboygan. (920) 451-4080.
Spruce Lake Bog
Late May to early June finds this bog and swamp habitat blooming with orchids and other rare wildflowers. Northern Unit, Kettle Moraine State Forest, Campbellsport. (262) 626-2116.
A wet prairie habitat near the Illinois border along Lake Michigan, the rolling swales of Chiwaukee Prairie are carpeted with a stunning 400 species of colorful prairie wildflowers and grasses. Try the third week in May for optimum viewing. (262) 878-5600.
A dry prairie habitat, a host of wildflowers, and a scenic overlook – Bald Bluff has it all! When you visit this prairie in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest two miles south of Palmyra, please stay on the designated trail. (262) 594-6200.