A guide to finding spring wildflowers in McHenry County

The sunshine and higher temperatures have awoken the seasonal wildflowers throughout McHenry County, signaling the onset of spring. Spring woodland wildflowers are often referred to as ephemerals, meaning fleeting, and defined by their short life cycles. Due to the brevity and staggered nature of the

Bloodroot can be found in spring on McHenry County Conservation District properties. Courtesy of McHenry County Conservation District

blooms, wildflower-seekers should venture out to conservation areas over the next few months to view them all. McHenry County Conservation District suggests several conservation areas where prospective wildflower admirers can find these transitory blooms most prevalent.

Boger Bog Conservation Area, 2100 Cherry Valley Road, Bull Valley

Fiddlehead ferns Courtesy of McHenry County Conservation District

The harbinger of springtime in McHenry County is skunk cabbage. This unique plant is easily identified by its distinct large podlike shape, purple-brown in color and often pungent skunky smell. Due to its ability to metabolically generate its own heat, it melts surrounding snow allowing for it to bloom earliest. Further down the trail one will likely find an abundance of fiddlehead ferns which have a tightly curled top akin to the ornamentation on a fiddle instrument. While not a wildflower, its delicate long leaves, or fronds, cascade down the stem. The fronds of the fiddlehead unfurl as spring wanes and create a lush, summery sprawl. Keep an eye out for Dutchman's breeches which can also be found at

Jack-in-the-pulpit Courtesy of McHenry County Conservation District

Boger Bog and have pinkish-white flowers that resemble upside down pantaloons, hence the name.

Coral Woods Conservation Area, 7400 Somerset, Marengo

Great swaths of spring beauty leave their mark throughout Coral Woods. This delicate white flower can be identified by the thin, dark pink stripes decorating its petals that attract pollinators to the center of the flower. One can also find white trout lily, which are marked by a single, white nodding flower with slender

Trillium Courtesy of McHenry County Conservation District

petals and blue-green leaves dappled with brown spots. Clusters of white, purple or blue petite flowers with three-lobed leaves are indicative of sharp-lobed Hepatica.

Marengo Ridge Conservation Area, 2411 N. Route 23, Marengo

Skunk cabbage Courtesy of McHenry County Conservation District

Mayapple, which often grows in colonies, is easily identify by its large, showy umbrella-like leaves. Below the conspicuous leaves, one may find a single white flower at the junction of its two stems. The flower of Jack-in-the-Pulpit is striped with maroon and green, resembles a flute glass with a petal awning and has leaves with three lobes.

Spring beauty Courtesy of McHenry County Conservation District

Fox Bluff Conservation Area, Cary-Algonquin and Cold Springs roads, Algonquin

The charming bluebell wildflower is prevalent at Fox Bluff. Bluebells are typically a deep violet-blue color with clusters of distinct bell-shaped flowers. White trillium, as the root of its name alludes, has three white petals juxtaposed against three broad leaves. Good things come in threes and the wildlife at Fox Bluff are aware; the flowers of the white trillium are not around long as they are a delicacy to the nearby deer.

Prairie smoke Courtesy of McHenry County Conservation District

Glacial Park Conservation Area, Route 31 and Harts Road, Ringwood

Near the visitor center and throughout other parts of Glacial Park, one may stumble across Bloodroot's striking white petals and bold yellow anthers, which are the tip of the antennae-like center that collects pollen. Venture further into the park and find prairie smoke, adorned by spiky, crown-like clusters of dark pink or maroon flower buds. Once bloomed, the flowers sport wispy, cotton candy-like plumes.

Mayapple Courtesy of McHenry County Conservation District

The presence of spring woodland wildflowers in the conservation areas allow visitors the chance to spend time outdoors and relish the pleasant view of ephemeral blooms. Please remember to take only photographs, stay on trail and leave the flowers for other visitors and pollinators to enjoy.

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