Several Wisconsin wild plants are protected by law and many more should be picked only in moderation. It is unlawful in Wisconsin to collect, destroy, or pick, on public or private land without the written permission of the owner, any trillium, wood lily, trailing arbutus, turk’s cap lily, American lotus, bittersweet, pitcher plant, or member of the orchid family (including ladyslippers,) according to Wisconsin wildlife law. These wildflowers are rare in Wisconsin and their brilliant colors and interesting shapes make them even more attractive to the unknowing wildflower collector.
The trillium – so called because it has three petals to a flower and three leaves to a plant – is found in Wisconsin woodlands. Species or orchids and ladyslippers are found in all kinds of habitat, from dry pine barrens to Wisconsin wetlands. Bittersweet is a woodland vine found in Wisconsin, noted for its orange berries. The wood lily is a Wisconsin wildflower of prairies and oak openings. The pitcher plant finds a home in bogs, while the trailing arbutus prefers the northern coniferous Wisconsin forests.
Wildflower picking or plucking in illegal in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin is one of the few states that has a wildflower protection law. It was passed in 1923. People then were concerned that indiscriminate wildflower picking and grazing were causing the decline of these attractive plants.
Today, these and other land use practices continue to make wild Wisconsin native plants even more rare. Drainage destroys Wisconsin wildflowers and habitat as well. Habitat loss is the one major factor contributing to the disappearance of wildflowers from certain areas of the state of Wisconsin.
Land drainage destroys bogs and marshes – habitat for pitcher plants, ladyslippers, water lilies and American lotus, as well as waterfowl and water-living animals like muskrats and Wisconsinbeaver. Grazing, although reduced in the state of Wisconsin, still destroys much of the ground cover in farm woodlands.
This reduces trillium, jack-in-thepulpit and other woodland Wisconsin wildflower habitat. Roadsides, once the haven for prairie and field wildflowers like the compass plant, prairie clover, liafris, and butterfly weed, are sprayed with herbicides for weed and brush control.
In addition to killing destructive weeds, the herbicides kill all broad-leaved plants in the sprayed area – including the wildflowers, just part of the reason why wildflower picking is illegal in Wisconsin, to protect these rare wildflowers before they disappear.