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12 Wildflowers in Wisconsin (with Photos)

Wisconsin may be known for the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee beer, and it produces more milk than any other state in the US, but it also happens to be home to a beautiful array of wildflower species. Whether in the shade or in the open prairies, you can find vibrant wildflowers throughout the spring and summer in Wisconsin. This article will give you more information about twelve wildflower species you can see in the state. 

12 Wildflowers in Wisconsin

The state wildflower of Wisconsin is the Wood Violet. It was designated as the state wildflower in 1949. The Wood Violet is a small, delicate flower that grows in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, meadows, and along roadsides.  

Let’s start with the wood violet and continue with 11 other Wisconsin wildflowers.

1. Wood Violet

Wood violet
Wood violet | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Viola papilionacea

This flower makes number one on our list of wildflowers because the wood violet is the state flower of Wisconsin. Wood violets are perennial plants known for their heart-shaped leaves and delicate, purple-blue flowers.

The petals of the wood violet are rounded and slightly veined, with a characteristic yellow throat. These beauties typically bloom from April to June. The Wood Violet is an important food source for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and its leaves and flowers are also edible and have been used in traditional medicine.

2. Dame’s Rocket

Dame’s rocket
Dame’s rocket | image by Andreas Rockstein via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Hesperis matronalis

Also known as sweet rocket and dame’s violet, dame’s rocket is an invasive plant that takes over Wisconsin’s woodlands. This plant is part of the mustard family and can be found in the southern and eastern parts of Wisconsin.

Dame’s rocket produces white, pink, or purple flowers from mid-May to mid-June. These delicate flowers have four petals and put off a sweet scent. 

3. Wild Blue Phlox

Wild blue phlox
Wild blue phlox | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Phlox divaricata

Commonly called woodland phlox, wild blue phlox has flowering stems that can reach up to 15 inches tall. It produces blue or lavender flowers and has white hair covering its stems and leaves. These flowers bloom from late spring to early summer in Wisconsin. 

4. Pale Purple Coneflower

Pale purple coneflower
Pale purple coneflower | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Echinacea pallida

The pale purple coneflower can be found in Wisconsin’s prairies and other areas with dry soil. This perennial wildflower grows to a height of 2 to 4 feet.

The name “pale purple coneflower” refers to its pale lavender to pinkish-purple petals surrounding a spiky cone-shaped center. This plant is considered threatened in Wisconsin, and in some areas, it has state protections. 

5. Prairie Blazing Star

Prairie blazing star
Prairie blazing star | image by mooray66 via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Liatris pycnostachya

Of the forty different blazing star species, the prairie blazing star is the tallest, measuring up to 5 feet. It has slender, upright stems with long, narrow leaves.

While the height may be impressive, the true beauty of this wildflower lies in its striking flower spikes, which are densely packed with small, fluffy, rose-pink to lilac blossoms. You can find these wildflowers blooming from July to September in Wisconsin. 

6. Black-Eyed Susan

Black eyed susan flowers
Black eyed susan flowers | image by John Wisniewski via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Rudbeckia hirta

Black-eyed Susans are vibrant yellow wildflowers that thrive in prairies and roadsides throughout Wisconsin. The bright petals surround a dark brown center, which is where the flower gets its name (even know the center is brown and not black!).

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In Wisconsin, black-eyed Susans typically bloom from mid-summer to early fall, with peak flowering occurring in July and August.

7. Prairie Dock

Prairie dock
Prairie dock | image by Frank Mayfield via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Silphium terebinthinaceum

These tall prairie flowers range in height from 3 to 10 feet, making them one of the tallest prairie wildflower species. The prairie dock features showy, yellow composite flowers that resemble sunflowers. This plant is popular with pollinators like bees, butterflies, and other insects. 

8. Compass Plant

Compass plant 
Compass plant  | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Silphium laciniatum

Though it looks similar to a sunflower, the compass plant is actually a member of the rosinweed family. These plants are characterized by a “rosin” or sap found in the stems when broken.

Like sunflowers, though, these plants can grow quite tall and feature large yellow flowers. If you look at the leaves at the base of the plant, you might notice that they more often than not align with north and south, hence the name “compass” plant. 

9. Prairie Smoke

Prairie smoke
Prairie smoke | image by Gertjan van Noord via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Geum triflorum

Prairie smoke, also known as Old Man’s Whiskers or Three-flowered Avens, produces bell-shaped flowers with reddish-pink petals. In spring, these flowers give way to seed heads that resemble puffs of smoke or wispy feathers. Prairie smoke grows between 12 and 16 inches and typically blooms from April to May. 

10. Prairie Spiderwort

Prairie spiderwort
Prairie spiderwort | image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Tradescantia bracteata

Prairie spiderwort is a low-growing plant that blooms from late spring to early summer. It forms clumps of narrow, strap-like leaves that reach a height of about 1 to 2 feet.

The flowers are a deep blue with bright yellow stamens. These flowers are unique because they are open in the mornings when the air is cooler, but as the day grows hotter, they close to save energy. 

11. Royal Catchfly

Royal catchfly
Royal catchfly | image by Carl Lewis via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Silene regia

Royal catchfly typically grows in prairies, meadows, and open woodlands in Wisconsin. It is a tall perennial plant that can grow between 3 to 4 feet tall.

It produces small clusters of brilliant red, tubular flowers. This plant gets its name from its sticky calyx, which can catch insects such as flies. These scarlet wildflowers bloom for about a month during Wisconsin summers. 

12. Bloodroot

Bloodroot flowers
Bloodroot flowers | image by Jason Hollinger via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Sanguinaria canadensis

Found in the forests of Wisconsin during early springtime, bloodroot is a perennial plant with small white flowers that feature eight elongated petals. In the center, you can see a cluster of bright yellow stamens.

Bloodroot gets its name from the reddish-orange sap that oozes from its roots when cut or broken. Historically, this plant was used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans.

Where and When to See Wildflowers in Wisconsin

While the best time to see wildflowers in Wisconsin varies between species and regions, generally, your best bet is springtime. The warming weather and longer dates wake up dormant seeds that sprout to life.

As spring changes to summer, the meadows and prairies in Wisconsin come alive with color. June to August is an excellent time to stop and smell the flowers, literally.

As far as where to find wildflowers in Wisconsin, there are several places available for optimal wildflower viewing. Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area, Wisconsin Point, Kettle Moraine State Forest, and Devil’s Lake State Park are all great places to visit to see a wide variety of wildflowers. Set your sites in Wisconsin in the spring and summer if you want to see some of the most beautiful landscapes nature has to offer.