The oak woods above the river are full of song. There may be only a few titmice, two cardinals, a Carolina wren, a chickadee, and four amorous cowbirds, but so early in the season they are a spring symphony to the winter-weary ear.
Dentacia laciniata Muhl.
The oaks stand tall and clean. Their buds already show swelling and a lighter color, but far ahead of them are the buckeye trees which already are in leaf. Spicebush blossoms are brassy gold. Anglewing butterflies gather at the running sap left from sapsucker borings on a hickory trunk. Song, color, activity - this is very early spring.
And the woods now are carpeted with flowers. Spring beauties are everywhere; there are trout lilies and dutchman's breeches, bellwort, and yellow and blue violets, red trilliums, wild blue phlox, and new, unrolling ferns. And with this horde of flowers are other blossoms which blend so well with the white of spring beauties as to be almost hidden among them. Here they are, the toothworts, the crinkleroots, in bloom again.
Toothwort has the four white or pinkish petals of the Mustard family, flowers arranged in a loose cluster at the top of the stem which stands above the two or three deeply cut, compound leaves. Taller than the spring beauties and more stiff and decisive, the toothwort is one of the. plants which fills a small niche in the complete picture of an Illinois springtime.
The horizontal white rootstock down in the woods earth is edible and pleasantly peppery to the taste, but since to eat it is to destroy the plant, it should be used only for emergency rations.