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Archive for the ‘Wildflowers’ Category

Every year around Halloween I go to Willard Pond over in Hancock to see what in my opinion, is some of the most colorful foliage in the region. Every year I tell myself that I’ll come back in the spring to see what it looks like then but I never have, until now. We’re going to be walking through a beautiful hardwood forest of oak, beech, and birch right along that shoreline over there behind that boulder.

Though the forest looked leafless in that previous shot there were plenty of spring leaves to see. This is the start of the trail that I follow. It is called the Tudor trail but I think I would have named it serenity, because that’s where it leads.

There were lots of new, velvety oak leaves.

Shadbushes (Amelanchier canadensis) still bloomed.

Ferns were in all stages of growth.

And everywhere you looked there were the big white flowerheads of hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides). It was hard to get a shot of them in the bright sunlight so I had to underexpose this shot. White is a tricky color for a camera on a sunny day. I’ve had several questions about cameras and how to use them lately and if this situation seems tricky for you, you might want to read about “bracketing exposures.”  It’s a simple tip that covers a lot of bases and helps you get more used to changing the settings on your camera.

Another native viburnum, maple leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), showed how it got the name. In the fall these leaves can turn pink, purple, red, yellow, and orange and combinations of two or three, and are really beautiful. The Native American Chippewa tribe used the inner bark of this plant to relieve stomach pains.

The beavers had cut down a big beech and were in the process of stripping all its bark from it.

I stopped to look at the hillside across the pond with its soft, hushed hints of green. I saw what I had suspected; that this place is beautiful no matter what time of year it is. I could hear a loon laughing and giggling over there somewhere and I wondered what the early settlers must have thought when they first head loons. With all of their many superstitious beliefs it must have scared them half to death. If you’d like to hear what I heard, just click here: www.loon.org/the-call-of-the-loon/

A fly fisherman was fishing for trout from his kayak and he heard the loon too. The loon was most likely also fishing for trout. Willard pond is considered a trout pond and there are rainbow and brook trout, as well as with smallmouth bass. No boats with motors are allowed, and fly fishing is the only form of fishing allowed. Since it is part of a wildlife sanctuary the land surrounding the pond can never be developed. It is about as close to true wilderness as you can find in this area and it is beautiful.

Several times when I came here in the fall, I saw the seed heads of rhodora (Rhododendron canadense). They’re one of our most beautiful shrubs and I hoped to find them in bloom, but all I saw were buds. I had to go back to get these photos of them but it was worth it because this is not a common shrub.

Rhodora is a small, two-foot-tall native rhododendron (actually an azalea) that loves swampy places. It is native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada and both its western and southern limits are reached in Pennsylvania. The flowers appear just before the leaves, but only for a short time in spring. They bloom just before irises in this area, and by mid-June their flowers will have all vanished. Henry David Thoreau knew it well, and wrote “The splendid Rhodora now sets the swamps on fire with its masses of rich color.” He would have loved this place.

Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum commutatum) grew all along the trail and on some of the boulders. I saw plenty of buds but no flowers yet. In the fall dark blue or purple berries will hang where the flowers were.

I’m including this view of the trail to show that if you come here, you’d be wise to wear good sturdy hiking boots. Mud, stones and roots are some of the things you’ll have to scramble up and over. I tell you about trail conditions in these posts so you won’t get here and wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. I often wish someone had done the same for me. Every hike has its own set of challenges, and their difficulty seems to increase with age.

For years, each fall I’ve seen what I thought was a species of dicentra growing on a boulder. But which boulder, I wondered on this trip. Then up ahead I saw that a tree had fallen across the path, stopped only by a boulder. When I got to the boulder sure enough, it was the boulder with the plant I was looking for on it. Luckily the tree hadn’t crushed the plants, so I was able to see them flowering. I could see that they weren’t dicentra.

Though I could see that they weren’t dicentra I didn’t know what they were because I had never seen them before. I took photos of the flowers and leaves from all sides as I always do and when I got home, I found that they were pale cordyalis. (Corydalis sempervirens.) They are a native which, from what I’ve read likes sandy, stony soil along pond and river banks. They are also called rock harlequin and why is perfectly clear, since this one grew on a boulder.

The small flowers of pale corydalis have two pairs of petals, which are bright pink with yellow tips. Some were white, but I’m not sure if they fade to white or come out white and turn pink. They are a biennial, which means that the plants appear in the first year and flower in the second. Flowers are small and appear in clusters (Racemes). They are related to Dutchman’s breeches, which is a native dicentra.

When I got home and saw this photo I took of the forest I thought my camera had lost its marbles, but then I checked the shots I took with the other two cameras I carried and they all showed the same; the most intense green I’ve ever seen. Colorblindness makes it hard to understand what color I’m seeing sometimes and sometimes the colors I see just don’t seem possible. “Find that on a color wheel” my mind taunts.

I’m always awe struck by this huge boulder. In relation to the glacier that scraped it up and brought it here it must have been little more than a grain of sand, and it’s hard to even imagine that.

Violets grew out of the moss on a stone at the water’s edge.

Blue flag irises grew close enough to the water to have wet feet, and that’s what they like. I haven’t seen any in bloom as of this post.

Over the years a few people have told me what I’ve missed by not following the trail past this old oak with its rickety little bench but I’ve seen, heard and felt enough, and I usually have more photos than I would want or need by the time I get here, so this is where I end my hike. I could go on to what is called “the point” or I could climb Bald Mountain, but I don’t feel a need to do so. This spot always calls to me to come and sit so that’s what I do, and it has always been enough.

I sit on the ground these days because the bench is getting wobbly, but it doesn’t matter. The view is the same and the sounds are the same. There is just the lapping of the waves and bird song, and maybe an occasional chuckle or hoot from a loon.

I watched the shadows from the waves move over the stone covered pond bottom. There was just enough of a breeze to kick them up a bit and thankfully, to keep the biting bugs away. In this region you would be hard pressed to find a day when there wasn’t a breeze coming across a lake or pond.

The one thing that is most abundant here is silence, and the simplest lesson nature teaches is the most valuable: silence heightens awareness. Once we have learned this silence becomes the teacher, and silence teaches peace. When I come upon the kind of beauty that makes me quiet and still, be it a tiny flower or a mountain top, I find that peace is always there, waiting. I do hope that you find the same.

The best places aren’t easy to see; instead of following light one must follow silence. ~Hanna Abi Akl

Thanks for stopping in.

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Starflowers (Trientalis borealis) are having a great year and I’m seeing lots of them. They usually grow in the forest in places that gets an hour or two of sunlight, but this year they seem to be everywhere. They sparkle like the first snowflakes of winter on the forest floor. The Trientalis part of the scientific name means “one third of a foot” in Latin and four inches is just about how tall they grow.

 I always like to see how many flowers I can find on a single starflower plant and this year I’m seeing many with three flowers. I’ve seen four flowers twice but one of the flowers had passed each time. It used to be that seeing three flowers was rare and seeing four was almost unheard of, but they seem to have more flowers each year now. More flowers are always a good thing, in my opinion.

Wood anemones (Anemone quinquefolia) grow alongside trout lilies in many places and though the trout lilies didn’t do well this year the anemones did. Anemones are sun lovers and they bloomed well, so it can’t be a lack of sunlight that caused of the lack of trout lily blossoms.

Much like a bloodroot blossom the petals of an anemone have almost imperceptible veins that show only in the right light. I was lucky enough to be there and able to capture it when the lighting was right.

There’s nothing left to see of them where I go, but I met a friend on a trail one day and he said the trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) in his yard were blooming beautifully. What the differences were between his yard and the places I visited, I don’t know.

Crabapples are blooming beautifully this year and some trees are so full of blossoms you almost can’t see the branches. The crabapple is the only apple truly native to North America and there are four species of them. They are Malus fusca, Malus coronaria, Malus angustifolia and Malus ioensis. The tree in my own yard was full of blossoms last year and this year I couldn’t find a single one.

Apples are also doing well. We’re lucky to have wild apple and crabapple trees on forest edges almost everywhere you look. Many people don’t realize that apples aren’t native because they’ve been with us for so long. My grandmother had a few trees which, by the time I came along, were grown more for their flowers than for fruit. They were very fragrant and I have many happy memories of bringing branches full of flowers upstairs to her.

The fragrance of lilacs is all I smell when I go on my daily walks now. Almost every house on any street I walk on has at least one, but though it is the state flower of New Hampshire it is not native to North America. I’m glad we have them though. It just wouldn’t be spring without them.

I know of only two places where rare dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) grows and in one of them, I was happy to find many seedlings this year. This one’s flowers had deeply pleated petals, which is something I can’t remember ever seeing. You have to search for the very small plants because they don’t like disturbed ground and so will only grow in soil that has been untended for many years. I find them by a forested stream in ground that has never been cultivated that I know of.

Plants are very small and most will easily fit inside a teacup. Individual dwarf ginseng flowers are about 1/8″ across and have 5 white petals, a short white calyx, and 5 white stamens. The flowers might last three weeks, and if pollinated are followed by tiny yellow fruits. This is not the ginseng used in herbal medicine and it should never be picked.

There are close to 45 species of pussytoes (Antennaria), which makes identifying them difficult, but they are popping up in lawns everywhere right now. They’re a good sign that the lawn has poor soil, because this plant likes to grow in sandy, rocky, almost gravel like soil. Pussytoes are a favorite of many butterfly species so they’re an important plant. Another common name for the plant is everlasting. Its female flowers seen in this photo.

The flowers of the pussytoes plant are said to look like cat’s paws, and that’s where they get their common name. Someone also thought the stamens on a male pussytoes flower, seen here, looked like butterfly antennae. I don’t know about that but that’s where the Antennaria part of the scientific name came from. Native Americans used the plant medicinally to treat coughs, fevers, bruises, and inflammations.

I learned a long time ago that trying to identify small yellow flowers can make you crazy so I pass most of them by, but this one follows me wherever I go. It could be a dwarf cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis), which is native.

Whatever its name is I think the bright yellow flowers are pretty. I see them blooming everywhere right now.

Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) is an old-fashioned shrub that I’m not sure is even sold any more, but back when I was gardening it was fairly common. This one is very old and large, and it was just coming into bloom when I found it.

It’s hard to mistake a Japanese quince for any other shrub. Its pinkish orange blooms appear on thorny branches long before its leaves do. It’s in the apple family and has edible fruit that is said to make excellent jelly. I worked for a lady who called it Japonica, which is what it was called in the 1800s. I planted a quince hedge once for some people and it worked out well.

If you happen to be a violet lover this is your year. I’ve never seen so many.

I thought these were dog violets but if I go by the longish throat hairs they can’t be, because dog violets have short, stubby throat hairs. I learned that recently by reading the Saratoga Woods and Waterways blog. It’s one of my favorites and it can be found over there on the right.

And what about this violet that looks like someone splattered it with paint? I found it in a garden at a local park.

Its name is “Freckles” (Viola Sororia Freckles) and I kind of like it, but knowing how quickly violets multiply as I do, would I dare plant it in a garden? I think I’d have to talk to someone who had planted it in their garden first to see if it was bent on taking over the world. I spent far too many years weeding violets out of gardens to have a nonchalant attitude about planting them, even if it is a cultivar.

I think tulip time is over now but this is my favorite for this post.

I like looking inside tulips, and this is why. You never really know what you’ll see, so it’s part of the fun.

These tulips had gone far beyond their best, but they were going out with a bang. Their petals moved like ocean waves and I thought they were passing on beautifully.

Here’s to the moments when you realize the simple things are wonderful and enough. ~Jill Badonsky

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I saw hobblebushes blooming in the woods along the roadsides so I knew it was time to visit the Beaver Brook Natural Area in Keene. It’s a place where I know I can get close to the hobblebushes and many other plants. I start off by following the old abandoned road that used to be the route to Concord, which is the state capitol, from Keene. The road was abandoned in the 1970s when the new Route 9 north was built, and nature has been doing its best to reclaim it ever since.

The old road is full of cracks, which are filled in immediately by green, growing life. This of course makes the cracks even wider so more plants can move in. Its a slow but inexorable process that will go on until the forest takes back what was carved out of it.

Cinnamon ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) unfurled by one of the vernal pools found along the old road.

Foamflowers (Tiarella cordifolia) grew near another pool. These pretty white flowered plants like wet feet so when you kneel for a photo you usually get wet knees. They have hairy, maple-like leaves and foot high flower stalks, and small, bright white flowers. Their leaves are bright green at first and then turn a darker green, sometimes mottled with maroon or brown.

The “Foam” part of the name comes from the many stamens on the flowers, which give large colonies a kind of frothy look. Each flower has 5 white petals, 5 white sepals, and 10 stamens. Foam flowers are popular in garden centers and are grown in gardens as much for their foliage as the flowers. Native Americans used the leaves and roots medicinally as a mouthwash for mouth sores. The plant is also called “cool wort” because the leaves were once used on scalds and burns to relieve the pain.

New maple leaves are still wearing their bright colors.

I’ve seen this spot when all the green you see to the right was underwater, but the brook was tame on this day. Maybe a little higher than average but not too bad.

I’m surprised flooding hadn’t washed all of this away, or maybe it was flooding that carried it here. This is just upstream from where I was in the previous shot.

There were an amazing number of trees in the brook so it will take quite a flood to wash them downstream. I’d cut them up if I was in charge because “downstream” from here means right through the heart of Keene. There must be a thousand places further on where a mess like this could get hung up. Waiting until high summer when the water was at its lowest and then having two men wade in with a battery-operated chainsaw would be the way to go.

But I was glad I wasn’t in charge because clearing that log jam will be worse than pulling apart a beaver dam by a longshot. How lucky I was; all I had to do was keep walking and enjoying a beautiful day.

I stopped to see the beautiful smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) that live here. It always looks like someone has spilled jewels on the stone.

Not too far up the old road from the smoky eye boulder lichens are the hobblebushes, and that’s the amazing thing about this place; just walk a few steps and there is another beautiful thing to stop and see. This is why, though it is less than a mile’s walk to Beaver Brook Falls, it often takes me two hours or more. I don’t come here for exercise, I come for the beauty of the place.

And there is little that is more beautiful than the flowers of our native hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides). The large, sterile flowers around the perimeter are there just to attract insects to the smaller, fertile flowers. The outer flowers are delicate, and a strong wind or heavy rain can strip them from the flower head.

Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) were bright yellow among last year’s leaves. They like wet, sunny meadows and open woodlands and there are a lot of them here.

There were no flowers on them yet though, just buds. The plant is said to be important to a number of short-tongued insects that are able to easily reach the nectar in the small yellow flowers. Each flower will be only about an eighth of an inch long with five sepals, five petals, and five stamens.

There were lots of blue marsh violets (Viola cucullata) (I think) blooming along the roadsides on this day. The long flower stems held the flowers high above the leaves and I believe the blue marsh violet is the only one that does this.

Jack in the pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum) still hadn’t unfurled their leaves but they had nice color on their spathes.

The old road goes uphill the entire way but it’s an easy climb and there are many interesting things to see along with all the plants and trees, like the old guard posts still guarding against accidents that will never happen. The electric lines seen here run through the area on their way to elsewhere. There are no houses along the road.

The disappearing stream that runs down the hillside had done just that. It was too bad because it can be beautiful in spring.

Here it was in March while there was still ice melting. The stream ran then.

There aren’t many places where you can get right down to the brook but there are two or three and this is one of them. All the stone along the embankment was put there to prevent washouts and it’s hard to walk on, so you have to be careful.

The stone didn’t prevent all washouts. This old culvert washed into the brook years ago. The brook slowly eats away at the road and in the end it will most likely win.

All the walking and hiking I’ve been doing has improved my legs and lungs so much I thought I could just skip down the embankment to see Beaver Brook Falls. It didn’t work out quite that way but I made it without breaking my neck. The amount of water going over the falls was perfect. There’s a huge stone that juts out right in the middle and when there is too little water it splits the falls in two, so the scene isn’t quite as photogenic in my opinion.

The only trouble was, I took the wrong trail down to the brook so I was even further away from the falls than this. I was glad I had a zoom lens. There used to be just one trail down to the brook but now somehow there are three, all looking equally worn. Since I took this one, I would have had to wade in the brook to get any closer. I wasn’t interested in getting wet but it could have been done. People used to swim here all the time, rocks and all.

This shot shows the climb back to the road, or half of it anyway. About half way up I leaned my back against a tree and took a photo to show what you’re up against if you decide to do this. The small trees kept me from getting too much forward momentum on the way down, and then they helped me climb back up. That big rock will slide right down the hill if you put too much weight on it but the others were pretty firm.

Just to the right, out of camera range in that previous photo, there was a colony of what must have been twenty trilliums or more. I saw them along the road all the way up and saw those I had missed on the way down. In fact I saw more trilliums here than I’ve ever seen in one place before, so if you live in the area and it is wildflowers you want to see, this is a great place to start looking. Those I’ve shown in this post are really just a small part of what can be found here.

There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations. ~Washington Irving.

Thanks for stopping in.

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On Mother’s Day I took a walk out on the rail trail in Westmoreland to see if the wild columbines were blooming. It was a little cool but otherwise it was a beautiful day. Just the kind of day you hope to have for a walk in the woods in spring. I was glad all the moms were going to see sunshine on their day, even though the forecast had called for clouds.

When I first came here there was a single red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) plant growing beside the trail but now I’m happy to say that I saw several of them. This one was just starting to open its flowers, which are hard to see in this shot because of the bright sunlight.

Two or three of the tiny, 1/8 inch flowers had just opened and weren’t showing any real color yet but I could see the form, which is made up of five petals which are called “petaloid lobes” and which curve sharply backwards. Five stamens will have white filaments and will be tipped with pale yellow anthers. The flower is completed by a center pistil with three tiny stigmata. Each flower, if pollinated, will become a bright red berry. The berries are loved by birds and disappear almost as soon as they ripen.

Lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) unfurled their fiddleheads here and there.

There were lots of new maple leaves in both red and green. I thought I even saw some orange ones but colorblindness won’t let me swear to it.

Beech trees were in all stages of growth. Some still had tight buds, some had unfurled their buds, and some had soft new leaves.

Some even had last year’s leaves still hanging on. Beech is such a beautiful tree, at all times of year.

Wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) leaves are a kind of a bronze-red when they first appear and it is at this stage that many people confuse it with poison ivy, probably because of the old saying “leaves of three, let it be.” That’s why anyone who spends any time in the woods should get to know the difference. It isn’t hard because in truth sarsaparilla looks nothing like poison ivy.

This photo from last year shows that poison ivy looks nothing like sarsaparilla in spring, or at any other time of year. The leaf shape is completely different, and so is the growth habit.

The kidney shaped seed leaves of jewelweed seedlings (Impatiens capensis) can fade now that the first set of scallop edged true leaves have appeared. I saw hundreds of seedlings, so the seeds must be very viable.

Canada mayflowers (Maianthemum canadense) were all along the trail, and some were budded like this one. Though native to North America the plant acts like an invasive and forms monocultures and also invades woodland gardens, where it is almost impossible to eradicate. It grows in the shade of the forest and it does very well there.

We’re almost there. Right around that corner.

And here were the ledges that the columbines and many other plants grow on. Once you start looking closely you realize that you’ve found a botanical motherlode.

And there were lots of columbine plants, more than I’ve ever seen here. They’ve spread from one end of the ledges almost to the other, and since they’re a very rare flower I was happy to see it.

But of all the columbines I saw on this day, all had buds and no open blossoms except two. One was far overhead and I couldn’t reach it, but the one in this photo was lower down, so by reaching up with the camera and “shooting blind” I was able to get a shot of this one so you could see what they look like. I’ll have to go back and get more photos of them when the plants that grow lower down decide to open their flowers.

And this was right overhead, so I didn’t dilly dally. Many large stones have fallen from these ledges since I’ve been coming here so I don’t spend much time close to them.

Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) is the other extremely rare plant that lives here, but rather than living on the ledges it lives at the base of them. I just showed the spring shoots in a recent blog and already, here is the flowering plant. Blue cohosh likes rich soil and is found on wooded slopes in hardwood forests. It is associated with oaks and maples and this area is almost entirely hardwood forest. This is the only place I’ve ever seen it.

Blue cohosh flowers, it’s easy for me to say, are unlike any others I’ve seen, with their striped sepals and knobby anthers. The first time I saw them I knew that I was seeing something rare and special. Sometimes when there are hundreds of the same flower blooming, like a violet for instance, I’ll pick one and look it over, but after spending 50+ years in the woods and finding these plants in just this place, I would never pick them.

Each of the yellow green striped sepals of the flower contains a nectar gland to attract insects. Six yellow stamens (sometimes fewer) form a ring around the center ovary and the true petals are the shiny green parts that ring the center between the sepals and the stamens. The word cohosh is believed to be Native Algonquin name used for several different plants with different color fruit, so in this case the word blue refers to the fruit color, even though all parts of the plant including the leaves and stems have a bluish cast to them in the spring.

Here is a photo that I took a few years ago of the beautiful blue fruit which gives the plant its name. The berries are actually brown seeds with a fleshy blue coating that protects them, and it is the seeds are what are considered the plant’s true fruit, so the plant is a bit unusual. The naked seeds are also considered poisonous. The “bloom” on the fleshy coating is made up of waxy white crystals that cover the berries and reflect the light in a way that makes them appear lighter colored. Some describe them as “blueberries dipped in confectioner’s sugar”. I will happily walk out here again this fall just to see them.

Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) flowers often show before the leaves and not surprisingly, though the flowers were fully out on these two plants the leaves were just unfurling. The striped parts seen in this photo are the spathe of the flower, which covers the spadix. These plants grow both on the ledges and at the base of them.

Jack in the pulpit plants are in the arum family and have a spathe and a spadix. On the inside the spathe, which is a bract, is more brightly colored than on the outside, with purple and cream stripes. Jack, which is the flowering spike or spadix, looked purple in the bright sunlight but it usually looks black. It could be that purple is the true color. If pollinated green berries will grow along the spadix during summer, and in the fall, they will finally turn bright red when ripe. Deer love to come along and snatch them up when they ripen.

There are lots of herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) plants growing at the base of the ledges but they never seem to be blooming when I come here.

There is always a nice clump of red / purple trilliums here (Trillium erectum) so I wasn’t surprised to see them. What did surprise me were all the seedlings I saw along the base of the ledges. It’s a good spot for trilliums.

But as I said in my last post, it’s nearly time to say goodbye to trilliums, and this flower showed why. They’ve had a great year though. I’ve seen more of them this spring than I ever have, and that means even more seedlings in the future. I doubt they’ll ever be as common as dandelions but a few more wouldn’t hurt. Many people never see them at all.

The woods were ringed with a color so soft, so subtle that it could scarcely be said to be a color at all. It was more the idea of a color – as if the trees were dreaming green dreams or thinking green thoughts. ~Susanna Clarke

Thanks for stopping in. I hope all the moms out there had a great Mother’s Day.

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Goldthread (Coptis groenlandicum), one of our prettiest spring flowers, has just come into bloom. The hook shaped parts are its tiny styles, curved like long necked birds. The male stamens are too numerous to count and white tipped, so I’d guess the pollen must be white. The white, petal like sepals last only a short time and will fall off, leaving the tiny, golden yellow true petals behind. The ends of these golden petals are spoon shaped and hold nectar. You can see how an insect would have a hard time sipping the flower’s nectar without bumping into the stamens and carrying off a load of pollen. All of this is going on in a flower just about the size of a standard aspirin.

If you’re looking for goldthread you can find it even in winter, because its shiny leaves are evergreen.

The first blueberry blossoms I’ve seen this year were on a lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium). Though the berries are usually close to the same size, lowbush blueberries rarely get more than 2 feet tall while 15-foot-tall highbush blueberries have been seen. I usually find them at about six feet or less. Native Americans called blueberries “star berries” and used the plant medicinally, spiritually, and of course as a food. One of their favorites was a pudding made with dried blueberries and cornmeal.

Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara) have appeared and, though they have the same color and sheen when young as a wild ginger leaf they’re much bigger and are shaped like a colt’s hoof rather than heart shaped like ginger.

With coltsfoot plants once the leaves appear the flowers pass on, but they had a good run this year. They liked the cool weather and bloomed for weeks. The seed heads are much furrier looking than a dandelion.

But at this time of year flowers come as quickly as they go, and it’s time for the shadbushes (Amelanchier canadensis) to bloom. This scene is a classic shadbush scene, because they almost always bloom along the edges of forests under the taller trees. They are a spring ephemeral shrub / small tree so the flowers will disappear as soon as the leaves come out on the taller trees.

Shadbushes originally got their name from the way they bloomed when the shad fish were running upriver to spawn. Another name, Juneberry, refers to when its fruit ripens. The fruit is said to resemble a blueberry in taste, with a hint of almond from the seeds. Many birds, such as cedar waxwings, love the fruit. Native American used the fruit in pemmican, which is made with fat, fruit, and preserved meat. Shadbush wood is brown, hard, close-grained, and heavy. Native trees can also be very straight, often reaching 25 feet, and Native Americans used it for arrow shafts. They also used its roots and bark medicinally.

Shadbush makes an excellent garden shrub or small tree and they are easily found in nurseries. This photo shows a cultivar I found at the local college. Cultivars have a much heavier bloom than natives.

Along with the shadbushes our native cherries start blossoming. New Hampshire has four native cherry trees: black cherry (Prunus serotina), choke cherry (Prunus virginiana), pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), and wild American plum (Prunus americana). The blossoms in the above photo are pin cherry blossoms. Choke cherries will bloom any time now. Just after, or sometimes along with the cherries will come apples and crabapples.

Sedges are still flowering. I think this one was Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) but I wouldn’t bet the farm on that. They usually bloom when trout lilies bloom and that’s just what has happened this year.

But while the sedges are having a good year, so far the trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) have made a poor showing. The spot I go to see them has many hundreds of plants in it but there were only three or four blossoms. I’m hoping I was just too early, so I’ll go back. Trout lilies are in the lily family and it’s easy to see why; they look just like a miniature Canada lily. The six stamens in the blossom start out bright yellow but quickly turn reddish brown and start shedding pollen. Nectar is produced at the base of the petals and sepals (tepals) as it is in all members of the lily family, and it attracts several kinds of bees.

You can tell by the dark anthers that this flower has been open longer than the one we saw in the previous photo. It’s hard to get a shot of them when they don’t have swept back petals because it happens almost immediately after they open.

One of my favorite things about a trout lily blossom is the coloring on the back. Another name for the plant is fawn lily, because the mottled leaves reminded someone of a whitetail deer fawn. Native Americans cooked the small bulbs or dried them for winter food.

The trees are quickly leafing out already and that means less sunshine each day for spring ephemeral flowers like spring beauties (Claytonia carolinana). I’m seeing fewer blossoms each time I go to see them and this time I had to search for them, so I think it’s getting time to say goodbye to them for another year. I hope I’m wrong though because I love seeing them.  

I’ve noticed some fading petals on some of the red / purple trilliums (Trillium erectum) as well but I hope that doesn’t mean they’re already done for the year. I don’t think they’ve been blooming more than two weeks. This one didn’t look too bad.

I see many hundreds of this very small white violets and I always wonder if they could be northern white violets (Viola pallens) but I always forget to look for a spur on the back of the lower petal. They are half the size of the violets that I usually see.

The insect guides are deep purple and the side petals may or may not have hairs on this generally non-hairy violet. They’re pretty little things and they’re everywhere right now.

Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) is native to North America but it acts like an invasive somewhat, because it just pops up in lawns everywhere in this area. Here it was growing in the lawn of an abandoned house. It is sometimes called moss phlox or moss pinks and luckily it doesn’t seem to mind being mowed. Many people wait until it’s done blooming to do their first spring mowing.

Another plant called creeping phlox is Phlox stolonifera that has much the same habit, but it is native only as far north as Pennsylvania. One way to tell them apart is by the darker band of color around the center of the flower; if it is there your plant is Phlox subulata and if it isn’t it is Phlox stolonifera.

Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) have just come out and they were beautiful. I was just reading that this is a member of the poppy family, which I hadn’t heard before. It is native to Siberia, China, Korea and Japan, and I didn’t know that either. My son just returned from Korea and he says it’s beautiful there. With flowers like these, I’d bet that it is.

I liked the color of this tulip. Tulips seem to be having a good year this year.

Lilacs are taking their time but it shouldn’t be too much longer before we can smell their wonderful fragrance again.

I don’t know what was going on with this dandelion but it takes first prize for the strangest dandelion blossom I’ve ever seen. All the parts are there but they’re all discombobulated. Maybe it is a sport, which is a genetic mutation. Sports are very important to the nursery trade and we unknowingly grow a lot of them in our gardens. This dandelion appears to be trying to become a double flower. I applaud its nonconformity but I’m sure many will see it as an ugly thing. As a gardener I met many people who thought they hated dandelions, but there was a time in years past when grasses were dug up so that dandelions would have more room to grow, so it’s all in how you look at it. Personally I like to see them for what they are, which is just a pretty yellow wildflower. It’s the only flower I’ve found blooming in all twelve months of the year.

Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom.  They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.  ~Jim Carrey

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Last week a storm spun just off the coast and brought us wave after wave of clouds, rain, wind and cold almost every day. In spite of below freezing nighttime lows there were a few plants brave enough to bloom. Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) bloomed just in time for May and that’s perfect. It is called Mayflower because that’s often when its small white to pink, very fragrant flowers appear.

To smell its flowers you have to literally get your chin on the ground because these flowers are ground huggers. It’s worth it though, because they have a scent all their own that it is impossible for me to describe. Kind of spicy, but there’s more to it than that. It’s a very unusual scent and that’s why they were so over collected for use in nosegays in years past. My grandmother always told of this being her favorite flower but we never did find any of them, so I found myself wishing she were there on this day. Until I thought about it, that is. She had awful trouble standing from a kneeling position, so she would have told me to pick some and give them to her and I would have had to refuse. That wouldn’t have gone over well. In her day the thought of a flower becoming extinct from over picking would have seemed ridiculous, and she would have told me so. They just didn’t know any better in her day.

A flower I’ve never heard of being picked is that of wild ginger (Asarum canadense), but the plants are still hard to find. I’ve found them in only in this one spot.

The plant’s fuzzy, heart shaped leaves were just unfolding but the brownish flowers were already blooming. I can’t think of another wildflower with leaves quite like these so the plant is very easy to identify. The long rhizomes of wild ginger were used by Native Americans as a seasoning. It has similar aromatic properties as true ginger but the plant has been found to contain aristolochic acid, which is a carcinogenic compound that can cause kidney damage, so it should not be used.

You could fit a pea inside a wild ginger flower but nothing much bigger. Though flies often crawl into the meat colored flowers it is now thought that they do so simply to get warm. Several scientific studies have shown that these flowers are self-pollinated. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because I saw many insects including bees already out before these flowers bloomed. Maybe insects just aren’t interested for some reason.

I’m not happy with the way the river water in the background came out in this shot of leatherleaf blossoms (Chamaedaphne calyculata) but I got a difficult shot so maybe I should just keep quiet and be happy with it. The plant normally grows out of the water a few feet but it can stand being flooded and this year because the river was high, I couldn’t get near it. I stood on a slope just at the water’s edge getting as close as I could by leaning, which wasn’t a good idea. It grew a foot or two off shore and I almost leaned myself right into the river.

But I stayed dry and it was worth a slightly raised heart rate to get photos of such pretty little blossoms. I was able to get a hold of a branch on another shrub and pull it toward me for this shot. The plant gets its common name from its tough, leathery leaves, which are lighter and scaly on their undersides. At a glance it might be mistaken for a blueberry, but these flowers are smaller and not quite so round as a blueberry blossom.

If you see these shiny pointed bud scales littering the ground that means the poplars are blooming. When they bloom their catkins are often blown off or taken off by rain, and you can see one of them on the upper right.

If you pick up one of the fallen poplar catkins this is what you’ll see. These are the reddish-brown male anthers, which are extremely small. But they do the job and when the female flowers have been pollinated, they’ll release their cottony seeds into the air and they will settle on everything. It’s not a good time to leave your car windows open.

The feathery white female flowers of the European white elm (Ulmus laevis Pall), which we call Russian elm, were just forming seeds when I saw them. The tree is large and spreading and quite beautiful, but it lacks the height and vase shape of the American elm.

The female flowers of the American elm (Ulmus americana) were a step ahead of those of the Russian elm, and had already become seeds (samaras), each with a white fringe. They will quickly lose this fringe as they ripen.

One of my favorite native tree flowers are the female flowers of the box elder. The male flowers come out early before the leaves, but the female flowers don’t show themselves until the leaves unfurl. I love their color and shape. They have a sticky velvety coating so they can catch as much pollen as possible. They must be very good at it because you find these “weed trees” coming up in waste areas and vacant lots all over town. Box elder was the first tree I ever planted. My grandmother used to pay me to pull up all the trees growing around her foundation and one of those I pulled up was a box elder. I carried it home bare root, dug a hole and stuck it in, gave it some water and pretty much forgot about it, and that tree grew for years and years. For all I know it could still be there, some 55 years later.  

For the first time I saw the flower stems (petioles) of female box elder flowers. I never knew this was such a hairy tree but I’ve always known how pretty it was, weed tree or not.

A rare thing has happened. Rare in this area anyhow; a downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens) has bloomed. This single plant is the only one I’ve ever seen. I thought it might be a round leaved yellow violet but the leaves are definitely heart shaped and not round.

It’s a very pretty thing and I was happy to see it. I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times I’ve seen a yellow violet.

Wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) have just come into bloom. These berries are small but you haven’t really tasted a strawberry until you’ve tasted them.  The full moon in the month of June was known to many Native American tribes as the “Strawberry Moon” because that was when most strawberries began to ripen. The berries were picked, dried and stored for winter use, or added to pemmican, soups, and breads. In the garden strawberries easily reproduce vegetatively by runners (stolons) but the fruit was so plentiful in the wild that colonials in North America didn’t bother cultivating them until the early 1800s. The first documented botanical illustration of a strawberry plant appeared in 1454.

Sessile leaved bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) has just come into bloom and only three or four out of thousands had opened when I went to see them. It was a windy day and you can tell that by the way this flower isn’t hanging vertically. I doubted I’d be able to get a shot but the camera stopped the motion and this is the result. The black flies are out in force now but the wind keeps them away, so I should have been grateful for it instead of grousing about it while there on my knees waiting for it to stop so I could get a photo. You never have to search too hard to find something to be thankful for, but sometimes I miss the opportunity.

I went to see what American hazelnut buds looked like when they broke but instead found this one still flowering. I was surprised because the male catkins have turned brown and dried up. These were the longest female filaments I’ve ever seen and I wondered if maybe they grew longer by stretching for pollen that will never come. I see a lot of hazelnut shrubs with no nuts on them in the fall and now I wonder if it is because many female flowers don’t appear until after all the pollen has been shed. In the end it doesn’t matter. Nature will straighten it out.

After a very slow start henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is having a great year. This plant was loaded with cartoon faced blossoms that resemble those of some of our small flowered orchids.

You might see a resemblance to henbit in the much larger flowers of dead nettle (Lamium maculatum) and well you should, because they are both in the same family.

Bradford pear blossoms (Pyrus calleryana) are pretty enough but they’re about all this tree has going for it. They have weak wood and lose branches regularly and birds love the tiny pears it produces, which means that it is quite invasive. In the wild it forms nearly impenetrable thickets and out competes native trees. And though the flowers are pretty enough their scent has been compared to everything from rotting fish to an open trash bin. I smelled fish when I was walking among them taking photos and I can say that I was very happy that I didn’t have one in my yard.

Pulmonaria (Pulmonaria officinalis) has just started blossoming, but I’ve never seen one like this. It had two colored flowers on the same plant, pink and blue / purple. I’m guessing that they come out pink and then change but I’ve never noticed this before so I wonder if it’s a newer hybrid. Another name for the plant is lungwort. 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.

Tulips of all colors and shapes have appeared.

I was looking for the very early red and yellow tulips I saw last year but I never did find them, so these will have to do. There was less yellow on the ones I saw last year. It just peeked out between the red petals.

It’s time to say goodbye to red maple flowers because they have grown wings, and now they will fly. The trees have blossomed longer this year than I’ve ever seen, most likely due to a cool spring.

I tried to draw my soul but all I could think of was flowers. ~Natalya Lobanova

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone is seeing lots of flowers!

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Purple (or red) trillium (Trillium erectum,) one of our biggest and most beautiful wildflowers, has just opened. Trilliums are all about threes and multiples of threes, which ia easily seen here. Though beautiful it has a a few secrets; flies are drawn to the plants because of the carrion scented flowers, and for that reason it is also called “stinking Benjamin.” Benjamin, according to the Adirondack Almanac, is actually a corruption of the word “benjoin,” which was an ingredient in perfume that came from a plant in Sumatra. According to the U.S. Forest service the root of this trillium was traditionally used as an aid in childbirth by Native Americans, and for that reason it is also called “bethroot,” which is a corruption of “birth root.”

I’m happy to say that the frosts we had didn’t wipe out the bloodroot plants (Sanguinaria canadensis,) though their numbers are down this year in this spot.

The flower petals, typically eight of them, drop off within a day or two of pollination, so their time with us is brief. It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to say goodbye to them for another year. I’ll look forward to seeing their simple beauty again next spring.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule,) which is usually one of the earliest flowers, has finally come around. I’m not sure what held it up but it seems very late. I usually see them by the end of March. Henbit is a “weed” in the mint family and gets its common name from the way chickens peck at it. I’ve read that the leaves, stem, and flowers are edible and have a slightly sweet and peppery flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked, so maybe that’s one way of getting it out of your garden.

I haven’t seen a lot of common chickweed (Stellaria media) this year either. This is another edible “weed” that is grown for human consumption in some countries, and is said to be far more nutritious than cultivated lettuce. Chickens can also eat it. The five petals are cut so deeply they look like ten on flowers that are smaller than a pencil eraser.

Fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) is a native shrub that often blooms in late March to mid April, but it too seems to have been held back this year. The pale-yellow color of the flowers and the unusual way that they form in pairs that branch off from a single stem make this shrub very easy to identify. I can’t think of another like it. The unusual twinned flowers will become twinned, orange red, oval fruit. I’ve read that many songbirds love the berries. I can’t say fly honeysuckle is rare but I know of only four or five places to find it. It seems slow growing and isn’t a real robust grower. I know one shrub that hasn’t seemed to change at all in ten years. You can find it on the edge of woods, usually in shade or partial sun.

Myrtle (Vinca minor) is an invasive plant that forms large mats that choke out natives but it’s also a plant that’s been shared from neighbor to neighbor for almost as long as this country has been a country, so nobody really cares. Many of the people I once gardened for thought it was a native plant that they inherited when they bought their house. They were always surprised when I told them it was from Europe, but they always wanted to keep it. I’ve found it growing and blooming along with lilacs and peonies near old cellar holes out in the woods, all of it so old nobody could remember who had even lived there. The word vinca means “to bind” in Latin, and that’s exactly what the wiry stems do.

Blue violets (Viola sororia) are actually purple and they’re just coming into bloom. I’m sure many gardeners won’t be happy to hear that because if left unchecked these plants can take over a garden in no time at all. But really, you’re living in a dream world if you think you can beat them, because even when we don’t think they’re blooming their unseen petal-less flowers, called cleistogamous flowers, are flinging seeds out of their 3-part seed capsules. I used to dig and pull them from many gardens by the hundreds. Now I just enjoy them.

I was surprised to see common yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) blooming already. It’s a common plant that some think is a clover, but clovers have oval leaves and this plant’s leaves are heart shaped. Unlike clover leaves they fold up at night and in bright sunlight, as they have done here.

Spring beauties (Claytonia carolinana) are about at their peak of bloom now, and this shot shows how the tiny things can carpet a forest floor. It also shows the variations in color they have, from nearly all white to very pink. They’re beautiful little things and I hope everyone gets a chance to see them. They won’t be with us much longer.

I’ve read that it is the amount of sunlight that determines color in a spring beauty blossom. The deeper the shade, the more intense the color, so I look for them in more shaded areas. These grew in full sun.

Apparently, the petal shape can vary by quite a lot as well. I’ve never noticed it before but the petals on these flowers are far wider and rounder than the long, narrow petals on the flowers in the previous shot. Each flower lasts just three days.

Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) are the same way with color variations. Some are deep blue and others are white and then you see everything in between, but the amount of sunshine doesn’t make a difference because they always grow in full sun.

All the magnolia blossoms that had come out before the frosts were browned on the petal edges but those that came out after were fine, as this one shows. They seem extra fragrant this year.

Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophyllas) has just started blooming and each plant has just a few flowers on it so far. The small flowers have great color.

Ornamental cherries have started blooming and are beautiful, as always. I like the star in the center of these particular flowers.

I found this blossom on a Tibetan cherry (Prunus serrula Tibetica.)  It looked like it had slept in its clothes. I wonder if they de-wrinkle themselves as they grow. Tibetan cherry is also called the paper bark cherry because of the way its bark peels as it ages, much like a birch, and it is used as an ornamental tree as much for its bark as for its flowers. The mahogany bark has very long, closely spaced lenticels that give it an unusual appearance.

This was a challenge. This hellebore grows in the garden of a friend and the sun was very bright when I was there. I used three different cameras trying to get a shot where the color wasn’t bleached out and this was the only useable one. It was too bad because this flower has deep, rich color. I plan on planting a few more flowers around here in the near future and hellebore will be one of them.

Tulips have come out and many were wide open, but I saw few insects.

Grape hyacinths are having a good year.

The flowers of Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica) look like they’re blown from milk glass and mounted on the stem with tiny, leaf shaped golden ormolu mounts. I don’t think that they really resemble lily of the valley blossoms but some do, so they call it the lily of the valley shrub. To me they look more like the blueberry family of flowers.

PJM rhododendrons have just started blooming. The PJM in the name is for Peter J. Mezitt who developed the plant and also founded Weston Nurseries in Weston, Massachusetts. They are also called little leaf rhododendron. They are very pretty, and well liked here and have become almost as common as Forsythia.

Forsythias are a good indicator of how cold and snowy it was last winter. Quite often you’ll see the shrubs with blossoms only on the lower branches, and that’s because the cold killed all the buds above the snow line and the only ones that survived were those protected by snow. These bushes are telling me that it was a mild winter. If the temperature had fallen below -20 F., they wouldn’t be blooming like this. There were many years I saw them with just a few blossoms down close to the ground, but not very often in the last decade or so.

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! ~Sitting Bull

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On one of my daily walks I passed a house that had a single white crocus coming up in what was once apparently a flower bed. The wide open flower reminded me of a bloodroot flower (Sanguinaria canadensis) so even though I was sure it was too early, I went to where the bloodroots I know of grow and found a single flower there; the earliest I’ve ever seen one bloom. It grows in a group of maybe 25 plants but there wasn’t a sign of any of the others, just this single blossom. Since that day we’ve had some cold nights with frost, so I’m hoping I’ll get to see the others. This plant gets its common name from the bright red sap in its roots, which Native Americans used to decorate their horses with.

Cheery little bluets (Houstonia caerulea) have suddenly popped up in all the lawns. Another name for this plant is Quaker ladies, but I’ve always thought it should have been quaking ladies because all the flowers move in the slightest breeze. I took this photo on a windy day so I was surprised that it came out. What appear to be four petals is actually a single tubular blossom with four lobes.

All the rain we had last summer must have done the willows some good because they’re blooming like I’ve never seen them bloom this year.

Male (shown here) and female willow flowers grow on separate plants. Though willow trees are wind pollinated these willows rely on insects for pollination so there is plenty for the bees to do this year.

Here are the less showy female willow blossoms. If pollinated each flower will become a small yellow, banana shaped seed pod which when ripe will split open and release fluffy seeds to the wind.

Here is a shot of some willow seed pods that I took in 2012. They’re very easily found in summer, but trying to figure out what species of willow you are looking at is far from easy because they cross pollinate so readily. As Henry David Thoreau said “The more I study willows, the more I am confused.”

The pretty flower buds of white ash (Fraxinus americana) are out of the bud and I hope they didn’t get frost bitten. Sometimes these buds are as black as blackberries and other times they’re colored like these were. The Native American Wabanaki tribe made baskets from ash splints and some tribes believed the wood was poisonous to rattlesnakes and used canes made of ash to chase them away.

Male box elder flowers (Acer negundo) are now well out of the bud and their reddish-brown anthers at the ends of long filaments can now blow in the wind and release their pollen. Quick growing, weak box elders are considered “weed trees” that aren’t good for much, not even for fire wood, and many trees throughout the city have been cut down. I was having trouble this year finding a single female tree but I think I’ve finally found one. Male and female flowers bloom on separate trees and I think the lime green flowers on female trees are the prettiest so I always look for them. They begin to show just as the tree’s leaves unfurl. Native Americans must have thought highly of the box elder because the oldest wooden Native American flute ever found was made from its wood.

I haven’t seen any of the female red maple blossoms (Acer rubrum) becoming seeds yet but it’s bound to happen with all of the millions of flowers blossoming in just this small area.

Male red maples are certainly doing their part. Their anthers loaded with pollen, ready for the wind to do its job.

I wanted to see if the sedges were blooming yet so I went to see the plantain leaved sedge (Carex plantaginea,) which is one of the earliest to bloom. I was happy to see that it was full of flowers. I like its crepe paper like leaves, too. They are large for gathering light, so it does well in the shade under trees. The prominent midrib, two lateral veins, maroon bases, and puckered look of the leaves are all used as identifying features for plantain leaved sedge.

The buttery male sedge flowers are the easiest to see, situated as they are at the top of the four-inch stalk, which is called a culm. You can just see the wispy white flowers there behind it. They always appear lower down than the male flowers.

The female flowers are delicate looking, white sticky threads, just waiting the for wind to bring them pollen. They are sublime in their simplicity and they’re one of my favorite things to see in spring.

The deeply pleated, extremely toxic leaves of false hellebore (Veratrum viride) have appeared. They come along between the spring beauties and trout lilies, so are right on time. I was slightly dismayed the other night when a local television show did a piece about a local forager. As the announcer spoke about the forager collecting ramps, the camera showed false hellebore. That was a serious mistake I thought, because eating false hellebore can be deadly.

This photo that I took years ago shows that true ramps, which are a wild onion or leek, bear no resemblance to false hellebore. If you forage for wild plants you would be wise to know them both. The bulbs and leaves of ramps are very strongly flavored with a pungent odor, so a simple sniff would help tell the difference. In some places they are called “The king of stink.” Their usage has been recorded throughout history starting with the ancient Egyptians. They were an important food for Native Americans and later for white settlers as well.

Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra) isn’t native to this region as far as I know, but there is one at the local college and I just happened to see its buds breaking. Bud break is defined as “when the green tip of a leaf can be seen emerging from the bud,” but there is often far more to it than that. It’s usually a beautiful thing to witness, and is one of my favorite things about spring. Spring flowers are beautiful, but there is so much more to spring than just the flowers.

Purple trilliums (Trillium erectum) are up and each plant has a single bud that should open in the near future, though I’ve waited a week or more for it to happen in past years. They usually bloom in mid to late April and are one of our largest and most beautiful native wildflowers. This cluster of plants was growing on a boulder.

Even on a gloomy day Forsythia was bright and cheery. Although they’ve become kind of a ho-hum shrub spring would be very different without them in this area. They bloom on any street you care to travel. Some are in hedge form, some are neatly trimmed and others are left natural, as this one was. If you have an embankment that you’re sick of mowing or otherwise dealing with, just plant Forsythia on it. One of the most beautiful spring sights I’ve ever seen was a roadside embankment covered with Forsythias. They were allowed to grow as natural as they wanted, and it was like seeing a yellow waterfall.

Hellebores have come out, just after Easter rather than during Lent. This isn’t my favorite hellebore but since I don’t have any of my own beggars can’t be choosers. This one grows in a local park. I do hope to one day grow some here but there is work to be done first.

There are many varieties of daffodil and I don’t know their name, but these two were tiny; each flower couldn’t have been much over an inch across. I’ve seen the small yellow Tête-à-Tête daffodils and these were probably close to their size but bi-colored.

I know they’re called glory of the snow (Chionodoxa) but our snow is usually long gone before these flowers appear, so I’m not sure where their true glory lies. It doesn’t matter though, because they’re beautiful and I enjoy seeing them each year.

Chionodoxa come in many different colors and are in the asparagus family (Asparagaceae,) along with hyacinths, grape hyacinths, scilla and many other plants.

I stood on the shore of a sea of scilla and watched as the wind made waves, and it was beautiful.

Just after I took this shot of lilac buds a front moved in and the temperature dropped severely before the wind blew and hail fell. Normally I would say something like here is a taste of what’s to come, but now I’m not so sure. I hope they and all of the other flowers made it through the cold and I hope to be able to show them to you in the near future.

In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty. ~Christopher Morley

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Since violets don’t usually bloom here until the end of April, I was surprised to find them so early. I was doubly surprised to see that they were white wood violets (Viola sororia albiflora) because I see maybe one white one for every hundred blue / purple ones. I’ve read that the American Violet Society says that the white ones are just white versions of the common blue violet (Viola sororia.) A kind of natural hybrid, I suppose. They’re prettier in my opinion, with their dark guide lines that help insects find the prize.

That ancient plant the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) has bloomed. They are members of the dogwood family but you would never know it by the tiny flowers, each one about an eighth of an inch across. The entire flower cluster seen here is barely an inch across. Though I’ve never seen it they say that each flower will become a small red fruit.

It is the fruit of the Cornelian cherry that is the reason it has been used since ancient times. Man has had a relationship with this now little-known shrub for about 7000 years, and we know that from finding remains of meals from the early Neolithic period that included cornelian cherry fruit. They usually bloom at about the same time Forsythias do, but they are seen in the form of small trees rather than the shrubby form of Forsythias. From a distance it might be easy to mistake one for a dwarf crab apple when it wasn’t in bloom.

So far, I’ve seen just two magnolia blossoms, this one and a white one that had been nipped by frost. So far it seems like spring is moving very slowly because of the still cool nights. Days are running in the high 50s F. lately and showery to partly sunny for the most part.

Hyacinths have come along now, and they always seem to me to mark the midway point of the flowering bulb season. They’re very beautiful and one of the most fragrant of all the spring flowering bulbs.

All of the sudden there are daffodils everywhere. In the last flower post I did I showed some that had been hurt by frost but these were untouched. According to the National Trust in the U.K. the daffodil’s drooping flowers are said to recall the story of Narcissus bending over to catch his image in a pool of water.

The local college has some very early tulips. They stay small but after a while will have yellow along with the red in the blossoms, if I remember correctly.

Striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides, var. libanotica.) is a scilla size flower that is one of my very favorite spring flowering bulbs. I tried to find them years ago and had a hard time of it but I just looked again and they now can be easily found through most spring bulb catalogs. Still, even though they’re easy to find now I never see them. I know of only this one place to find them and they are very old, coming up in the lawn of a local park. Though the catalogs will tell you that the blue stripes are found only on the inside of the blossom they actually go through each petal and show on the outside as well. I think they’re very beautiful.

Johnny jump ups (Viola) are blooming by the hundreds now. I chose this as my favorite on this day.

The cool weather is being good to the coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) plants. I see more and more blossoms but not a single seed head yet.

This dandelion blossom was just waking up, and I put it here so those of you who don’t know could see the difference between it and the coltsfoot blossom in the previous photo. In truth the only thing they have in common is the color. Size, shape and growth habit are different but the easiest way to tell the two apart is to look at the flower’s stem. Coltsfoot stems are scaly and dandelion stems are smooth.  

Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) are growing about an inch per day when the sun shines, and if you look closely, you can see tiny flower buds all ready to get started. These are the tall, old fashioned bleeding hearts that die back in the heat of summer.

Raindrops were being cradled lovingly by the new growth.

Skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) are looking more cabbage like each day, but you wouldn’t want to eat them.

I’ve been looking for some moss spore capsules to try out my new camera on and apple moss (Bartramia pomiformis) obliged with its tiny round capsules, fresh out for spring. Reproduction actually begins in the late fall for this moss and immature spore capsules (sporophytes) appear by late winter. When the warmer rains of spring arrive the straight, toothpick like sporophytes swell at their tips and form tiny green globes, so their appearance is a good sign of spring.

Each spore capsule is about 1/16 of an inch in diameter. Tiny, but after a few failed tries the new camera was able to do the job. The pointed part seen is the calyptra, which is a hood or cap which covers the lid-like operculum. The calyptra falls off first as time passes and the spores ripen, and finally when the spores are mature the operculum comes off and the spores are released to the wind.

Here is an apple moss spore capsule against a U.S. nickel. I tried to find the height of the date text on a nickel but had no luck. It is safe to say that it’s very small.

Though the male catkins are looking a bit tired the female flowers of American Hazelnuts (Corylus americana) are still going strong.

Hobblebush buds (Viburnum lantanoides) are opening but you’d never know it unless you had watched the hard mass that was there in winter slowly soften and begin to expand. Still, even at this stage it isn’t much to look at, and it might be hard to believe that in about a month it will be one of our most beautiful native wildflowers.

It is indeed hard to believe that the unshapen mass in the previous photo will become something as beautiful as this, but come mid May the woods will be full of wonderful blossoms like this one. Hobblebush flower heads are large-often 6 or more inches across, and are made up of small, fertile flowers in the center and larger, sterile flowers around the outer edge. All are pure white. I can’t think of a better reason to walk through the woods in spring.

I haven’t seen any of the feathery female flowers of the elms (Ulmus americana) yet but I’ve seen plenty of the male flowers like those shown here. Male flowers have 7 to 9 stamens with dark reddish anthers. Each male flower is about 1/8 of an inch across and dangles at the end of a long flower stalk (Pedicel.)

Male (staminate) box elder flowers (Acer negundo) are just showing in the recently opened buds. Once they begin to show like this things happen fast, so I’ll have to watch them.

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) buds are showing color, so it won’t be too long before I can smell their wonderful fragrance again. It was my grandmother’s favorite wildflower because of that scent. Several Native American tribes considered the plant so valuable it was said to have divine origins, and I think she must have thought so too.

Trout lilies are up but so far leaves are all I’ve seen. The leaves always appear before the small yellow, lily like blooms. It won’t be long.

I was lying on my stomach at the edge of the woods trying to get this photo, just a few yards from one of the busiest highways in Keene, when I heard “Sir, is everything all right?” I looked up and found a young Keene Police officer looking down at me. I assured him everything was fine, thanked him for his concern, showed him the first spring beauty blossoms he had ever seen, and off he went. I thought afterwards that he had closed his car door, walked down an embankment full of crunchy oak leaves and stood right there beside me, and I hadn’t heard a thing. This, I thought, is a good example of becoming lost in a flower. I could imagine by his look of genuine concern what must have been going through that young officer’s mind. It can’t be every day that a policeman sees someone lying motionless in the weeds beside the road. At least, I hope not.

If you are lost inside the beauties of nature, do not try to be found. ~Mehmet Murat ildan

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In spring it doesn’t matter where you walk because everything is fresh and new and beautiful, but there were some things I wanted to see that I couldn’t see anywhere else, so I chose the old rail trail up in Westmoreland where the wild columbines grow. It’s the only spot I’ve ever found them in.

The first thing I saw was a stream running perpendicular to the trail, and when you’re on a railbed that can mean only one thing; a box culvert.

Box culverts carry the water under the railbed and have a roof made of thick slabs of granite, sturdy enough to carry the weight of a train. This is an odd one though, because one of the side walls is less than 90 degrees; not parallel to the other side wall. Also, if you look at the horizontal piece of granite you see there is a piece of track propping it up. These are things I’ve never seen on any other box culvert, and I’ve seen a few.  Another very odd thing about this setup is, the stream never comes out on the other side of the trail. Somehow, it goes underground or into a well. There are two huge pieces of granite slab on the opposite side of the trail covering something big.

But the strange box culvert wasn’t what I came here to see. One of the things I wanted to find out was if the red elderberry buds (Sambucus racemosa) had broken. Not only had they broken, they were already showing small clusters of flower buds. They remind me somewhat of lilac flower buds at this stage.

When red elderberry leaf buds break several (usually) purple leaflets come up out of the bud. Each “finger” of the tiny purple leaflet is rolled into a tube when it comes out of the bud, but will quickly unfurl and turn green in the sunshine.

And here was another stem that had leaves unfurling. It doesn’t look like much until you consider that just a month ago, all of this was packed inside of a bud just slightly larger than a pea. Once the buds break things happen quickly.

There are a few railroad artifacts along this trail, including this old signal base.

The place where the columbines grow isn’t far, about a mile out, and it’s an easy walk. There is a lot to see here, and there are always lots of birds to hear. I like places like this, especially on a beautiful spring day.

But you’ve got to stay awake and aware out here, because this is where I ran into the biggest bear I ever hope to meet up with.

I’ve thought about that encounter, and I think the bear just happened to be in this spot because one of the biggest beech trees I’ve even seen stood here, and I think the bear was probably just gobbling up all the fallen beechnuts from it. With a tree that size there must have been thousands of them. But then a storm blew through and the tree must have been weaker than it looked, because one trunk fell here, across the trail, and the other fell the opposite way. That stump and part of the trunk is all that’s left. Someone came out and cut it all up, but left the parts that were too big and heavy to move behind.

There are also wild grapes growing here. Something else for birds and animals to eat.

Marks from the big steam drills the railroad used are everywhere. Drill a hole, pack it with black powder, light the fuse and run as fast as you can go. I have a cannon that my father gave me that I use black powder in and I found that you had better run and hide behind a tree after you light the fuse because it has no carriage, and once the charge goes off it will fly through the air. It will fire a ball the size of a pinball machine ball, and it will bury that ball so deep in a chunk of maple you can’t dig it out. When they blew these ledges, the sound must have been deafening because that cannon can be heard from a long way off.

There was a lot of stone to take care of on this section and once they had the ledges cut back away from the rails they left them as they were, and now 150 years later they are home to some rarely seen plants.

Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is one of those plants, rare enough in this area so that I’ve never seen it anywhere else. It should bloom around the first of May or the last week of April, depending on the weather.

You’ve got to watch for loose stone above you near these ledges, though. This pile of stone had fallen not too long ago, and I think it landed right where the only blue cohosh plant I’ve ever seen grew.  

I’ve never gone very far beyond the ledges but this was a beautiful day and I had time so I decided to explore a little.

I saw a little brown mushroom growing on a very rotten black birch (Betula lenta) branch.

I think it might have been in the suillus clan. They only grow in soil from what I’ve read, but this branch had rotted down to very near soil. The only thing holding it together was the bark.

I saw an old road leading into the woods.

There were gate posts on either side, far enough apart for even a car to drive through. There was also a stone wall with a built-in break in it at this spot, so this road has been here for quite some time.

The road went into the woods for a short way and then turned sharply to the left, going downhill. The woods, mostly pine and hemlock, were thick and dark. Someday I’ll have to follow that old road, but not on this day. It’s too dark in that forest for sun lovers I think, but there could be a lot of pink lady’s slippers, as well as goldthread and other shade tolerant plants, but it’s too early to find any of them now.

I turned back and once again stopped at the ledges, at the place where a large clump of purple trillium grows. It was too early for trillium too, but it’ll be along in a week or two, probably. It grows fast and usually blooms when the columbines do so I’ll have to come out here again soon. I noticed that a lot of young trees had found enough soil to grow in on the ledges.

One of the trees growing on the ledges was striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum,) and most of the buds I saw on them showed cracks in the bud scales, just like those seen here. That means bud break will happen before too long and that gets me excited.

Striped maple buds are among the most colorful in the forest and quite different looking than other buds I’ve seen. They can be pink, orange, yellow or any combination of those colors and they are always velvety soft. This shot from last year shows them in all their glory.

This tiny moss grew on a section of ledge where water dripped constantly but didn’t look at all wet. It caught my eye because it was so bright, but it was so small I had to use full microscope mode on my camera to get just a poor shot of it. After 3 or 4 days of trying off and on to identify it, I haven’t had any luck so far. If you happen to know what it is I’m sure other readers would be happy to know.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
 ~Robert Frost

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