By Cydney Ross

As winter fades, you may hear whispers of a spring ephemeral spot in the heart of Kansas City known as “Bluebell Valley”. This riparian woodland, adjacent to the Little Blue River, is KC Wildlands newest acquisition in their ongoing efforts to preserve natural areas by managing harmful invasive species. This particular area is rich with early spring blooming species like Virginia Bluebells (Mertinsia virginica), Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), White Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum), Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), and more.

I’m lucky to be one of three dedicated Missouri Master Naturalists (MMN) of the Osage Trails Chapter leading restoration efforts to remove invasive Shrub Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) and Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) from this special area. Kathy Beijen, Anthony Pernice, and I kicked off restoration work in 2021 with guidance from Linda Lehrbaum, Program Manager of KC Wildlands. Collectively, we have spent 90+ hours cutting down and gingerly treating Shrub Honeysuckle stumps with herbicide. In some regards, early spring flora are indicator species of high quality natural areas with their delicate, ephemeral nature. They’re also the first to disappear when non-native invasives take over an area, which is why it’s important to be good stewards of our land.

Conservation work on this site precedes our efforts and we are grateful for the folks who have done their part over the years to protect, what I believe to be, the best example of woodland spring ephemerals in Kansas City. Before the Rock Island Trail was a paved pathway, MDC Naturalist, Pat Whalen, reminisces that you had to cross rickety railroad ties straddling above the river in order to access the valley. Folks that were lucky enough to be brought to this site were then asked to pull ten honeysuckle for admittance to the most spectacular spring showcase in Kansas City. Worth it!

Want to see the bluebells yourself? Join Native Landscape Specialist, Alix Daniel, myself, and Pat Whalen for an in-person Deep Roots field trip and virtual tour of Bluebell Valley this April. We have a limited amount of tickets available for the in-person event on Friday, April 14th which can be purchased here. Otherwise tune in for Native Plants at Noon, the Earth Day edition, on Thursday, April 20th, 2023 at 12pm CST as we walk you through this woodland wonderland.