Last weekend I was anxious to see how plants had reacted to returning to our normal night time temperatures in the 20s after a week of abnormally high temperatures. Most seemed to be doing well; the only things I’ve seen that seem to be struggling are the flower buds on maple trees, which look as if they might have been nipped by frost.Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis ) was blooming happily outside of the local bookstore. Other than spring bulbs, this perennial is one of the earliest to bloom in spring. It prefers shady places so it is valuable in gardens that get little sun. During the middle ages in Europe, lungwort was considered dangerous because the grey spots on its leaves were associated with an infected lung. Later, it was used to treat lung disorders. The scientific name Pulmonaria comes from the Latin pulmo, meaning lung. P.J.M. Rhododendrons were also blooming. These easy to care for evergreen shrubs are often used in commercial plantings. They bloom about a week after forsythia starts blooming and for a week or two purple and yellow are everywhere. The P.J.M. in the name is for Peter J. Mezitt who founded Weston Nurseries in Weston, Massachusetts. These are also called little leaf rhododendron. When I finally got away from commercial buildings and into the woods I found bloodroot, (Sanguinaria canadensis) finally in full bloom. The seeds of bloodroot are spread by ants. Though it is a native wildflower, bloodroot can now be found in garden centers along with trillium and other natives, so there is no need to disturb it in the wild. I wasn’t sure if I’d get to see any trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) blooming this year but there it was beside a path through the woods. This plant is listed as endangered in many states because people have over collected it to try and grow in their gardens, not knowing that it rarely survives transplanting. My grandmother always called this, her favorite flower, mayflower. Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica) is another early blooming evergreen shrub that is used often commercially and in foundation plantings. The entire shrub will be covered with thousands of small white or pink flowers as is shown here. They are slow growers which need little to no pruning, so they also make an excellent shrub for the home garden. I thought these willow (Salix) flowers were beautiful. They’re much smaller than the ones I posted last week and have different coloration. There are so many different plants that are called pussy willow that it’s hard to know exactly which one you’re looking at. I found this ash tree full of flower buds near my local food market. I’m fairly certain that it is a white ash (Fraxinus americana), but it could also be a green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica). Both are commonly planted along streets and in parking lots. One thing that helps identify ash trees are the shape of the leaf scars that appear just below the buds, and I didn’t look at it closely. A leaf scar can just be seen in this photo below the terminal bud at the end of the branch. On the white ash these scars are “C” shaped and on green ash they look like a “D.” White ash leaf scars are also much larger than those on green ash. Ash bears male and female flowers on separate trees. The buds in the photo will become male flowers. There are many thousands of pictures of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) found on line, but nearly all of them show either the flower spathe or the leaves. I’ve seen few pictures of both the flower and leaves, so here are a couple of shots so we can see what they look like at this stage. As I was writing the above I noticed that fellow New Hampshire blogger jomegat has a skunk cabbage picture with leaves and several flowers that can be seen here. It’s a nice big one that must have some age to it. Before long, if it has been pollinated, the flower will turn into a green, egg shaped fruit. The fruit’s surface looks brain-like and turns black as it ages. If I return in mid-summer I should be able to get pictures of it. I read that the roots of skunk cabbage contract and literally pull the plant deeper into the soil. By contracting in this way the root forces itself deeper into the soil each year so that old plants become almost impossible to dig up. Some believe this plant can live for hundreds of years. Something I’ve never seen in March is lilac (Syringa) buds showing color, but here they are. This year nothing surprises me. I hope another cold snap doesn’t finish them off.Here is a low, creeping plant that we don’t often think of as a wildflower, but creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) is native to the forests of North America. Another plant called creeping phlox is Phlox stolonifera, native to the Appalachians from Pennsylvania to Georgia. One way to tell the two plants apart is to look for the darker band of color around the center of each flower; only Phlox subulata has it. Creeping phlox is also called moss phlox or moss pinks.
I hope you enjoyed seeing what spring flowers are blooming here in New Hampshire. Thanks for stopping in.