Spring surprises await along wooded trail

large flowered white trillium
In 1986, the large flowered white trillium became the official wildflower of Ohio. (Julie Geiss photo)

A heavy frost during the last week of April led me to do some crazy things. I covered wildflowers in the woods. 

I couldn’t save my magnolia blooms from wilting, but the delicate spring ephemeral known as Jacob’s ladder stood a chance if I made an impromptu blanket fort over them. Who knows? They probably would’ve survived without my intervention, but I wasn’t taking any chances. 


There is only one mature plant of that type in our woods. I tiptoe around it and guard it against being trampled by dogs and children. I couldn’t identify it for many years. 

When I described the plant as having tall stems with tiny purple flowers, many people responded that it sounded like a bluebell. However, there are small differences between the two wildflowers.

The tiny flowers do not have an elongated bell shape like bluebells. The leaves on Jacobs’ ladder helped to give the plant its name. Like a fern or a walnut tree, the leaves are pinnately compound. The smaller leaflets are arranged along the leaf’s central stalk. They resemble a ladder similar to one Jacob dreamed about in the Bible. 

The scientific name is Polemonium reptans. It thrives in moist woodlands near a stream. It was used by Native Americans to treat lung ailments like coughing. Instead of using the petals or flowers, the root was harvested and dried in the fall. 

Other wildflowers survived the heavy frost and are popping up along the trail. Wild blue phlox and myrtle thrive along the sloping hills in the woods. Skunk cabbage grows in abundance in the valley. Mayapples are seemingly everywhere. 

Wild blue phlox
Wild blue phlox and mayapples survived the heavy frost and continue to thrive. (Julie Geiss photo)

Surprisingly, this year at first I only found one white trillium. In 1986, the large-flowered white trillium became the official wildflower of Ohio. It was chosen because it exists in all 88 counties of Ohio. 

Typically, large-flowered trillium will grow in sprawling colonies. Deer are quite fond of snacking on trillium. Several days after finding the first lone trillium, I did find a large cluster tucked on a southern facing hillside. Hopefully, the deer will take much longer than I did to find them. 

In many places throughout the woods, blue violets form a ground cover. Unlike trillium that deer eat like candy, blue violets actually deter deer. 

Unsuspecting trout lilies met their demise with the frost. Before the cold weather, my daughter decided that trout lilies closely resemble Mario kart banana peels. After the frost, they wilted back into the ground. 

Wild turkeys

As much as I enjoy making our woods a wildflower sanctuary, the men in my family have a different idea. They banned me from the trail. Well, they actually banned me from taking the dogs on a walk through the woods. 

It was that time of the year when the hunters woke before the sunrise to call in wild turkeys. While I was inspecting the ground cover on the forest floor, they were scouting for turkeys. They did not want the dogs to scare away the large birds. 

Wild turkey season in Ohio looked a little different this spring. In the fall of 2021, the Ohio Wildlife Council reduced the spring wild turkey bird limit from two to one. 

In recent years, the number of wild turkeys in Ohio has declined due to low reproduction rates. The fact that there are wild turkeys in Ohio is due to efforts in the 1950s to reintroduce the birds to Ohio. 

Wild turkeys were extinct in Ohio in 1904. The loss of natural habitat and overhunting decimated the numbers. Without a hunting season in Ohio for 64 years, a spring hunting season returned in 1966. 

The record for the largest wild turkey harvest was set in 2001 with 26,156 birds. Last year in 2021, the spring harvest brought in 14,541 birds. The reproduction rate will continue to be monitored and considered for future regulations.

As for my family, we have a 50/50 success rate. My oldest son’s hunt resulted in slow-roasted turkey on the grill. My youngest son is still working on turkey calls and perfecting his shot. Each with our own interests, we are blessed and thankful for the land that surrounds us and the bounty it provides.


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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at juliegeiss1414@gmail.com.



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