Wildflower hunting is as good as a treasure hunt. Actually, better. Wildflowers aren’t yet taxed. For years, I’ve been fascinated by wildflowers, particularly by the violet family. The intricacies of the violet family, the variety, the color. I find them enchanting. Back in Illinois, I was thrilled to discover that we had three different species of violets in our backyard, and I looked for others when we went hiking. Now in the Black Hills, there are yet new ones to discover and marvel at! A few days ago, I stumbled across a larkspur violet – I had never found one before, and wasn’t sure I’d see another this spring, so I snapped away with my long lens, even though I knew it was pointless – I was right. It was pointless. Half an hour later, I found another cluster and made a mental note to come back on my next day off with my shorter lens.
This morning, Dad and I went on a walk along the Hole-in-the-Wall trail, and there along the path was a larkspur violet couple. Of course, I’d left my camera at home, since it was cloudy. Flowers really do photograph the best in bright sunlight, so that the transparency of their petals is captured. Once again, I made a mental note. When it warmed up a little later in the day, I headed out again, armed with my camera and correct lens, intent on photographing my larkspur violet, starting with the one along Hole-in-the-Wall trail. It had been cloudy all day, and rather windy. But no sooner had I started on the trail than the cloud cover broke, illuminating little families of darkthroat shootingstar, not-yet-bloomed columbine, and the delicate cups of the lanceleaf bluebell.
My larkspur violet was waiting where I left it. The delicate striping of the throat, the satiny hairs, the shimmering petals are all typical of violets, but the leaves are what set this violet apart. Most violets have solid heart-shaped leaves, while the larkspur violet, also known as the prairie violet or birdfoot violet, has divided leaves. Because of that characteristic, this little beauty can’t be misidentified.
Satisfied with the proof of my find, I headed back down the trail. It was warm, in spite of the breeze. A gorgeous day. The whole landscape was afire with the colors brought by the recent rain. The emerald greens, the deep fuchsia of shootingstars, the blues and pinks and purples of bluebells, the glinting white and gold of wild strawberries and starry false Solomon’s seal. I was almost home when a flicker of purple caught my eye. Almost back at home, growing unobtrusively on a pineneedle-covered bank was another larkspur violet. And there was another. And another. A whole little colony of them.
It was a successful hunt.