The most notable thing about this week has been the incredible fragrances of autumn olive and honeysuckle on the breeze. Both are invasive species but their fragrances can’t be matched by any native shrubs that I’m aware of blooming right now. There is no way to pass these fragrances on, but I can show you the flowers. The second most notable thing is that the lady’s slippers are blooming, and that’s always a harbinger of summer. I’ve been waiting for the pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) to turn pink. When the “slipper” first begins to open it is a washed out, very pale yellow or off white color-enough to fool someone into thinking they’ve found a much rarer yellow lady’s slipper-then after 2 or 3 days it turns pink. These can be deep red to white, but not yellow. Pink lady’s slippers are the only slipper orchids that don’t have stem leaves, so they are easy to identify even when the flower hasn’t opened. If you look closely at any other lady’s slipper you will see slightly smaller leaves growing on the flower stalk. A pink lady’s slipper after opening, but before it turned pink. Note the leafless flower stalk. Lady’s slippers are about 2 weeks early; they usually bloom in June here, and they always tell me that summer is about to begin.Jack in the pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum) have finally unfurled their leaves. This plant can bloom as much as 2 weeks before its leaves unfurl. All of the “baby” plants around this older one don’t necessarily mean it will produce seeds because the plants also reproduce vegetatively. Jack in the pulpit has a corm for a root and plants with this type of root often produce new corms each year. They are creating quite a large colony near a stream that I visit often. I like taking a peek under the hood of a Jack in the pulpit. The striping on this one is well defined. I don’t see any flowers forming at the base of the spadix (Jack) yet.Common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus.) Daisy fleabane looks much the same as common fleabane, but the leaves don’t clasp the stem like they do on common fleabane. Fleabane flowers are actually flower heads, made up of tiny yellow trumpet shaped flowers in the center disc and larger ray flowers around the outside. The ray flowers can be white or pale pink and the whole thing closes up at night. The word “bane” is a very old English word that means poison when it is part of a plant name, so fleabane is flea poison. Henbane wouldn’t be good for hens and baneberry means a poisonous berry. I found this plant on the roadside.Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) gone to seed. There was a plant blooming right next to this one and I have a picture of the flower, but I thought this seed head was far more interesting.Mouse ear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum.) It is plants like this that keep the big herbicide companies making billions because they’ve convinced people that “fuzzy green patches don’t belong in their lawn.” They tell us that this “pesky plant loves to wreak havoc on the open spaces in our lawns and gardens,” but what they don’t tell us is how the plant was here long before lawns were even thought of. A few hundred years ago in cottage gardens turf grasses were pulled as weeds so useful or edible plants like dandelion and chickweed could flourish. How times have changed! Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) is another common lawn weed, but I like it even if it grows in my lawn. This plant is a native with leaves that resemble clover, but it isn’t a clover at all. The leaves fold up at night and when the plant is stressed. The setting sun fell hot on the plant in the photo which I think is why it folded its leaves. This plant prefers partial shade. Creeping wood sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) is very similar but has deep, reddish purple leaves. Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) is still blooming and I see it in a large range of environments, so it isn’t fussy about where it grows. This is a beautiful flower but is also extremely toxic and should never be eaten.This colony of wood anemones was lighting up a shaded slope near a river. Many anemones can be found in garden centers and they make excellent groundcovers. They are usually found with the flowering bulbs and are sometimes called wind flowers. Colors are blues, pinks, and yellows as well as white. Dwarf or Early Cinquefoil (Potentilla Canadensis) is often mistaken for a buttercup. This common native grows in fields, woods, and along roadsides. It grows low to the ground and isn’t often affected by mowing. The leaves resemble those of the strawberry and the plant spreads by runners like a strawberry, but this plant doesn’t bear fruit and its flower is yellow rather than white. It also has 5 leaflets instead of three. This one had bluets, which are still blooming, for neighbors. Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is an old fashioned favorite that some make the mistake of planting in their garden. Lily of the valley spreads quickly and is hard to control, so it’s better planted away from garden beds at forest edges or along woodland paths. It is also very poisonous and the red berries that follow the flowers are attractive to kids, so they should be made aware of its dangers.Bush honeysuckle is an invasive plant, but I like the pink flowered species which is called Tartian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica.) Other invasive honeysuckle species have white flowers that turn yellow as they age, and they are the most fragrant. The red berries that ripen in midsummer are a favorite of birds, which explains why these plants are so widespread and nearly impossible to control. Soft, hairy leaves, 2 lower petals bearded, two upper petals more plain than the lower 3, and no notch at the base of the leaves all point to this plant being the Northern Downy Violet (Viola fimbriatula,) but to be honest there are so many different violets and their differences are so subtle that I never feel good about positively identifying any of them. Let’s just call it a pretty little flower. A long time favorite wildflower of mine is blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium augustifolium,) which isn’t a grass at all but is a plant in the Iris family. The flower has 3 petals and 3 sepals, all of which are the same color. These plants are hard to spot because they grow in full sun with tall grasses and other plants at the edges of mown fields and waste places. They are hard enough to find when blooming but when the small flowers close in late afternoon they can be almost impossible to find, so If you want to look for this plant get out into the meadows in the morning. Slender Blue Eyed grass (Sisyrinchium mucronatum) can also be found in New Hampshire.
I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything. ~Alan watts
I Hope you continue to enjoy seeing what’s blooming here in New Hampshire. Thanks for dropping in.