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Wild Native Plants of Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods in May

article and photos by Drew Granville, Volunteer Botanist at Fontenelle Forest

Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods both have vast regions of rich habitats ranging from oak uplands, prairies and floodplains. Different wildflowers emerge and bloom throughout the spring, summer and fall. Restoration efforts have increased the species diversity and richness. This article will look at a small portion of the growing season plants in oak woodlands, prairie openings, and floodplains.


By May, the early spring oak woodland ephemerals, which are plants with short life cycles, such as Dutchmen’s breeches, bloodroot, and spring beauty have dispersed their seeds and have gone dormant until next spring.  These plants may appear small and delicate, but each could be centuries old.  The ephemerals turn over marks a dramatic spike in plant species diversity.  The many species of oak woodland sedges will begin to flower and will relatively quickly set into seed.  Many of Fontenelle Forest’s grasses will have emerged, but most will not be fully grown until later in the summer.  There are also woodland forbs blooming during this time such as Jack in the Pulpit, Notchbract water leaf (a native wildflower only known in Nebraska at Neale Woods and Hummel Park), and the rare showy orchis orchid which is in-decline statewide.



A sharp increase in flora diversity has also begun in open wooded areas with ample sunlight at Fontenelle Forest and predominantly the prairie reconstructions at Neale Woods.  Tallgrass prairies are one of Nebraska’s most endangered habitats with an estimated 1-2% of this habitat remaining nationwide.  Some of the showiest wildflowers that occur in remnant virgin tallgrass prairies can be viewed at Neale Woods in late May.  These include prairie phlox, white false indigo, and large flowered beardtongue.



A dramatic shift has also occurred in the Fontenelle Forest floodplain.  Various native plants specialize in wetlands due to the constant need to grow in wet to saturated mud or standing water.  Taking long hikes through the floodplain in late May, one might be lucky enough to come across blue flag iris, pawpaw trees in bloom, or to encounter large colonies of meadow anemone.

It is a part of Fontenelle Forest’s mission to preserve and restore all three of these habitats with active management through prescribed fire, reduction of overpopulated woody plants, invasive species removal, and seed collection and dispersal.

You can help us protect all of Fontenelle Forest’s wildflowers by following a Leave No Trace policy by not picking or collecting any plants. Please leave everything where you found it for other guests to enjoy. For more information on Leave No Trace visit lnt.org.

Fontenelle Forest is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit.

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