This Earth Day, stop and smell these native Wisconsin flowers 

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Spring in Wisconsin has sprung — and the signs are everywhere! From the warming weather and longer days to the chirp of birds in the air. And while spring in the Badger State can mean everything from the beginning of Brewers baseball season to finally taking the snow tires off your car, it’s important to take time to stop and smell the flowers — literally!

With Earth Day coming on April 22, it’s the perfect time to appreciate some of the beautiful things that grow in Wisconsin. Whether you’re a gardener yourself or prefer walks on hiking trails or at a local botanical garden letting the professionals or nature itself do the planting, see if you can spot some of these beautiful spring plants native to Wisconsin. Happy flower hunting!

Trout Lily

Don’t let the name get you nervous — there’s nothing “fishy” about this sunny yellow lily! These bright and beautiful plants grow all over the United States, Europe, and Asia, and are also indigenous to Wisconsin.

While the yellow version is most recognizable, you can find trout lilies in white, or with a pinkish coloring. And you should definitely try to! In addition to being pretty to look at, trout lily bulbs are edible and nutritious, and trout lilies have a history as a medicinal plant among Indigenous Americans. If you decide to go looking for trout lilies, remember to look for their tell-tale mottled leaves.

Photo courtesy of Katja Schulz via CC-BY-2.0.


In some parts of the world, the crocus is the flower that heralds the start of spring — in Wisconsin, especially in the prairie regions of the state, you should look for the pasqueflower!

This vivid purple relative of the buttercup is the first of the prairie wildflowers to bloom each year, generally in April or early May. Because of its early bloom time and beautiful color, pasqueflowers haver long been used to dye Easter eggs! But if you see them, let them grow — Easter eggs are pretty, but pasqueflower blooms are even prettier.

Photo courtesy of Bernard DUPONT via CC BY-SA 2.0.


The name may bring Halloween to mind more than the start of spring, but just like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, don’t judge bloodroot by its name! Another native wildflower with an early spring bloom time, these delicate white-and-yellow flowers grow up the eastern side of North America, from Florida to parts of Canada — and, of course, Wisconsin.

While the plant gets its name from the reddish sap that its roots produce when cut, it also has medicinal properties and is used in commercially-available medicines even to this day.

Photo courtesy of Tim McCormack via CC BY-SA 2.0.


Despite this pretty purple flower’s common name of “liverwort,” we prefer to call it hepatica (wouldn’t you?). These flowers bloom every spring from their low-lying shrub, and their colors can range from white to deepest violet, as well as every shade of lilac and lavender in between.

While hepatica is very pretty to look at, be careful not to touch it. Despite having some historical use in herbal medicine, hepatica is poisonous in large doses, so eyes only, please!

Photo courtesy of Archenzo via CC BY-SA 2.0.

Virginia Bluebell

Wait a minute — Virginia? Isn’t this supposed to be a list of Wisconsin wildflowers? Why, yes, it is — and Wisconsin is home to the beautiful Virginia bluebell, funny as that may sound.

From mid-April through May, you can find these tall plants with their delicate blue bell-shaped flowers in bloom across Wisconsin. You can also spot them as far south as Alabama and as far north as Quebec. Many Wisconsinites plant Virginia bluebells in their gardens, and a few of the truly adventurous (who’ve made sure to properly identify them) even find space for them at the dinner table!

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hodnett via CC BY-SA 4.0.

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  • Ellery Weil

    Ellery Weil is a historian and writer who holds degrees from the University of Michigan and University College London. In her spare time, she likes cooking, theater, and petting dogs she meets on the street.

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