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Posts Tagged ‘Spring Beauty’

1. Fly Honeysuckle

The unusual joined flowers of the American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) usually starts blooming during the last week of April, so it’s a little early this year. Its unusual paired flowers branch off from a single stem and if pollinated will become joined pairs of reddish orange fruit shaped much like a football, with pointed ends. Many songbirds love its fruit so this is a good shrub to plant when trying to attract them. I see it growing along the edges of the woods but it can be hard to find, especially when it isn’t blooming. This photo shows the buds, which were just opening.

2. Fly  Honeysuckle

The trumpet shaped blossoms of the fly honeysuckle usually dangle downward like bells but this plant had a single open flower that was parallel to the ground and so I was able to get my first photo looking into one.

3. Red Maple

Many maples missed the recent cold snap and are still flowering now. It’s impossible to know how many were hurt by the cold but at least the weather has improved since.

4. Hazel

I was surprised to see the hazelnuts (Corylus americana) still blooming. The fine strands of the female flowers looked a little darker than their normal bright crimson though, so I wondered if they had been frost bitten.

5. Dandelions

At the edge of the forest dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) bloomed profusely. After a two year near absence it’s good to see them again. Their disappearance coincided with two of the snowiest and coldest winters we’ve had in quite some time, but that could simply be a coincidence.

6. Mayflowers

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) have just started blooming. This shot is for those of you who have never seen it so you can see its oval, leathery, evergreen leaves in relation to its waxy flowers, which are small and are white or pink. The plant can form large ground hugging mats. Another common name for it is mayflower and that comes by way of its supposedly being the first flower the Pilgrims saw upon landing on the shores of the new world.

“God be praised!” the Pilgrim said,
Who saw the blossoms peer
Above the brown leaves, dry and dead
“Behold our Mayflower here!”

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote that but I have to wonder if he ever saw the plant. I’ve never seen one with “brown leaves, dry and dead” because they usually stay green year round. And since the Pilgrims landed in September it’s doubtful that trailing arbutus would have been blooming. Several Native American tribes used the plant medicinally. It was thought to be particularly useful for breaking up kidney stones and was considered so valuable it was said to have divine origins.

7. Mayflowers

I’ll have to agree that the spicy fragrance of trailing arbutus is divine, but you have to be willing to get your chin on the ground to experience it, so low do they grow.  The fragrant blossoms were once so popular that the plant was collected nearly to the point of extinction in New England, and in many states it is protected by law thanks to the efforts of what is now the New England Wildflower Society.

8. Vinca

Vinca (Vinca minor) is another trailing plant and is also a slightly invasive one from Europe. It has been here long enough to have erased any memories of them having once crossed the Atlantic on the deck of a wooden ship though. In the 1800s Vinca was a plant given by one neighbor to another, along with lilacs and peonies, and I’ve seen all three still blooming beautifully near old cellar holes off in the middle of nowhere. But the word vinca means “to bind” in Latin, and that’s what the wiry stems do. They grow thickly together and form an impenetrable mat that other plants can’t grow through, and I know of large areas with nothing but vinca growing in them. But all in all it is nowhere near as aggressive as many non-natives so we enjoy its beautiful violet purple flowers and coexist.

9. Bloodroots

I was happy to see bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) just coming into bloom about the same time as last year.  I think it’s probably tender enough to have suffered in the cold, so I’m glad it waited. Bloodroot’s common name comes from the toxic blood red juice found in its roots. Native Americans once used this juice for war paint. I’d love to show it to you but I can never bear to dig one up.

10. Bloodroot

I always challenge my own camera skills by seeing if I can take a photo of bloodroot with the very faint veins in the petals visible. It isn’t easy unless the light is just right. On this day sunlight fell brightly on them but by shading them with my body I was able to get the petal’s veins in the shot.

11. Violet

They’re called broadleaf weeds and some people are less than happy when they find them in their lawn, but I welcome violets in mine and I’m always happy to see them.  In fact one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen was a large field of dandelions and violets blooming together and I’d love to have a “lawn” that looked like it did. Violets can be difficult to identify and, like the many small yellow flowers I see, I’ve given up trying. I just enjoy their beauty and notice that they have the same features as many other flowers. The deep purple lines on the petals guide insects into the flower’s throat while brushy bits above dust its back with pollen.

12. Violet

Some of my lawn violets are white, and shyer than the purple.  Native Americans had many medicinal and other uses for violets. They made blue dye from them to dye their arrows with and also soaked corn seed in an infusion made from the roots before it was planted to keep insect pests from eating the seeds. The Inuktitut Eskimo people placed stems and flowers among their clothes to give them a sweet fragrance, and almost all tribes ate the leaves and flowers.

13. Spring Beauty

Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) are so beautiful and seem like such perfect flowers that I just can’t think of anything else to wish for when I’m sitting with them. It’s very easy to sit with them for a very long time too, if you should happen to lose yourself in them. I’ve read that those that grow in the shade are the most colorful but I’ve also noticed that the new, partially opened flowers are also more colorful than those that are fully opened, so age must also play a part.

14. Spring Beauty

This spring beauty blossom was much less colorful than the one we saw previously, but it didn’t seem to be growing in a spot that was sunnier. I think there is also a lot of natural color variation among them just as there is with most flowers. They’re very small; a single blossom could easily hide behind a penny. This one had a visitor. A leaf hopper, I think.

15. Trout Lilies

The trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) have just opened in the huge colony of them that grow in a narrow strip of woodland in Keene. I’ve read that some large colonies can be as much as 300 years old. Each plant grows from a single bulb and can take 7-10 years to produce a flower, so if you see a large colony of flowering plants you know it has been there for a while. Young plants start with a single leaf and then grow a second when they are ready to bloom, so you see many more leaves than flowers. Out of the many thousands of plants in this colony I saw not even a quarter of them in bloom, so I think most of them in this section are relatively young.

16. Trout Lilies

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 like these but quickly turn brown and start shedding pollen. Three erect stigmata will catch any pollen that visiting insects might bring. 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. The plant will produce a light green, oval, three part seed capsule 6-8 weeks after blooming if pollination has been successful. The seeds of trout lilies are dispersed by ants, which eat their rich, fatty appendages and leave the seeds to grow into bulbs. On this day I saw bumblebees visiting them.

Flowers construct the most charming geometries: circles like the sun, ovals, cones, curlicues and a variety of triangular eccentricities, which when viewed with the eye of a magnifying glass seem a Lilliputian frieze of psychedelic silhouettes. ~Duane Michals

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1. Trillium

Spring is moving onward quickly now and the warmer temperatures are bringing out the flowers and tree leaves. Trilliums (Trillium erectum) couldn’t seem to make up their mind for a while but here they are in all their glory. This one is our red or purple trillium, which is also called stinking Benjamin because of its less than heavenly scent. “Benjamin,” according to the Adirondack Almanac, is actually a corruption of the word benjoin, which was an ingredient that came from a plant in Sumatra and was used in the manufacture of perfume. Apparently it looked a lot like trillium.

2.Trillium

Whatever you call it it’s hard to say that purple trilliums flowers aren’t beautiful. Just don’t get close enough to smell them.

3. Spring Beauties

It’s almost time to say goodbye to some of my favorite springtime friends, like these spring beauties (Claytonia virginica.) Their time is brief and maybe that’s why they are so loved by so many. Maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder, but I doubt that I would like them any less if they stayed all summer. They’re beautiful little things and seeing a forest floor carpeted with them is a breathtaking sight that you don’t forget.

4. Sessile Leaved Bellwort

In botanical terms the word sessile describes how one part of a plant joins another. In sessile leaved bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) the leaves are sessile on the stem, meaning they lie flat against the stem with no stalk. These leaves are also elliptic, which means they are wider in the middle and taper at each end.  New plants, before the flowers appear, can resemble Solomon’s seal at a glance. The plants I find always have just a single nodding, bell shaped pale yellow flower but they can sometimes have two. Sessile leaved bellwort is in the lily of the valley family and is also called wild oats.

 5. Shad

Shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis) gets its name from the shad fish. Shad live in the ocean but much like salmon return to freshwater rivers to spawn. Shad was a very important food source for Native Americans and for centuries they knew that the shad were running when the shadbush bloomed. In late June they harvested the very nutritious shad fruit, which was a favorite ingredient in pemmican, a mixture of dried meat, dried fruit, and animal fat.

6. Shadblow Flowers

Shadbush is our earliest native white flowered tall shrub, coming into bloom just before the cherries. Another name for it is serviceberry, which is said to refer to church services. One story says that its blooming coincided with the return of circuit preachers to settlements after winter’s end and the resumption of church services. Another name, Juneberry, refers to when it’s fruit ripens.

7. Common Blue Violet aka Viola sororia

The common blue violet (Viola sororia) likes to grow in lawns, and that’s exactly where I found this one. The markings on its lower “landing pad” petal are there to guide insects to its nectar but it is actually visited by very few insects. This violet doesn’t take any chances though, and in summer self-pollinating (cleistogamous) flowers without petals produce more than enough seeds to ensure future generations.

8. Green Hellebore

I saw another hellebore flowering in some friend’s garden. This one leaned toward olive green, which seems an odd color for a flower but is still beautiful.

 9. Trailing Arbutus

Trailing arbutus flowers (Epigaea repens) are also called Mayflowers in this part of the country and this year they lived up to their name by refusing to bloom until May first. The small, pinkish flowers are very fragrant and were my grandmother’s favorite wildflower. At one time Mayflowers were collected nearly into oblivion and laws had to be passed to see that they didn’t disappear altogether. I’m happy to report that it is making a strong comeback. This plant was thought to have divine origins by many Native American tribes.

10. Fly Honesuckle Flowers

The unusual joined flowers of the American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) are a little late this year but still, there are few shrubs that bloom as early as this one, which usually starts blooming during the last week of April. Its unusual paired flowers branch off from a single stem and if pollinated will become joined pairs of reddish orange fruit shaped much like a football, with pointed ends. Many songbirds love its fruit so this is a good shrub to plant when trying to attract them. I see it growing along the edges of the woods but it can be hard to find, especially when it isn’t blooming.

11. Anemone

Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) is very similar to false rue anemone (Enemion biternatum.) but false rue anemone doesn’t grow in New England. True rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) is also similar and does grow in New Hampshire, so the two plants can easily be confused. It’s complicated, so I try not to think about all of that and just enjoy the sometimes huge colonies of delicate white flowers.

12. Hepatica

This is the first time a hepatica flower (Hepatica americana) has ever appeared on this blog because this is the first one I’ve ever seen. These small plants are limestone lovers and since most of our soil in this part of the state is very acidic, they are rarely seen here. I was lucky enough to be shown this plant and many others that I’ve never seen in the woods of Distant Hill Gardens in Walpole, New Hampshire recently. In 1979 owner Michael Nerrie and his wife Kathy bought the property and, after finding so many beautiful and rare plants in the woods, graciously opened it to the public. We’ll be hearing a lot more about the plants found in the Walpole woods in the future but for now, if you live in this area you should definitely visit Distant Hill Gardens. You can find directions and much more by clicking on the word here.

Who would have thought it possible that a tiny little flower could preoccupy a person so completely that there simply wasn’t room for any other thought? ~Sophie Scholl

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1. Forsythia

I’ve heard all the arguments against forsythia and I agree with most of them, but you have to admit that spring would be very different without their cheery blooms.

2. Forsythia

Forsythias shout that spring has arrived and it’s hard to ignore them because they are everywhere. I think you’d have a hard time finding a street in this town that doesn’t have at least one.

3. Magnolia Blossom

It’s great to stop for the daily paper and see this beautiful pink magnolia on my way into the store. Every time I do I feel like I should thank the owner for planting it.

4. Reticulated Iris

Someone at the local college must like reticulated iris (Iris reticulata) because hundreds of them grow there. They’re a very early spring flower that does well in rock gardens and goes well with miniature daffodils like tete-a-tete.

5. Cornelian Cherry Flowers

I’m interested in both botany and history and they come together in the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas). This under used shrub is in the dogwood family and is our earliest blooming member of that family, often blooming at just about the same time as forsythias do. The small yellow flowers will produce fruit that resembles a red olive and which will mature in the fall. It is very sour but high in vitamin C and has been used for at least 7000 years for both food and medicine. In northern Greece early Neolithic people left behind remains of meals that included cornelian cherry, and the Persians and early Romans also knew it well. As you look at its flowers it’s amazing to think that Homer, Rumi, and Marcus Aurelius most likely did the same.

6. False Hellebore Shoot

The shoots of false hellebore (Veratrum viride) rise straight out of the damp ground and look like a rocket for a short time before opening into a sheaf of deeply pleated leaves.

7. False Hellebore

I can’t think of another plant that false hellebore really resembles but people occasionally poison themselves by eating it. When it comes to poisonous plants false hellebore is the real deal and can kill, and it’s not a good way to go. In 2010 five people who had been hiking the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska had to be evacuated by helicopter for emergency medical treatment after they ate false hellebore roots. Luckily they all survived, with quite a tale to tell.

Native American used the plant medicinally but they knew it well and dug the roots in the winter when their toxicity was at its lowest level. There is a legend that says the plant was used in the selection of new chiefs, and by the sounds of it anyone who lived through the experience was thought of as chief material.

8. Wild Leeks

Wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) come up at the same time as false hellebore and in fact I found these growing very near the false hellebore plants shown previously. But how anyone could confuse the two is beyond me, because they look nothing like each other. Even the leaf color is different. Wild leeks, also called ramps, are edible and considered a great delicacy, and each year there are ramp festivals all over the world.  These plants lose their leaves before they flower in midsummer and that makes the flowers very hard to find, so this year I’m telling myself that I’m going to put marking tape on the trees near where these plants grow so I can finally get photos of the flowers later on.

9. Hellebore

Some friends of mine have this beautiful hellebore growing in their garden and I wanted to get a shot of the flower to see if it looked anything like the flowers of false hellebore. False hellebore flowers bear a slight superficial resemblance, but they are much smaller and are green, and the leaves look nothing like a true hellebore. Nobody seems to know how the name false hellebore came about. If it wasn’t because of the flowers or leaves, what could it have been? Maybe because true hellebores are also poisonous?

Pliny said that if an eagle saw you digging up a hellebore he (the eagle) would cause your death. He also said that you should draw a circle around the plant, face east and offer a prayer before digging it up. Apparently doing so would appease the eagle.

10. Spring Beauties

There are plants that can take me out of myself and cause a shift in my perception of time so that I often have no idea how long I’ve been kneeling before them, and spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) is one of them. How could you not lose yourself in something so beautiful?

11. Spring Beauty Just Opened

I’ve read that spring beauties that grow in the shade are the most colorful and for the most part I’ve found that to be true, but this year I noticed that the newly opened flowers were also more colorful than those that were fully opened. Just look at this example’s deep color and near perfect form. To me it’s everything a flower should be and though I can think of many flowers that are as beautiful, I’d have a hard time naming one that was more beautiful.

 12. Trout Lily Budded

I know a place where hundreds of thousands of trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) grow but each year I find a single one that buds before all of the others. Though I didn’t mark it I think this is the same one that budded first last year. I think that because of its being located to the right of a path near a small pond, and this year I want to mark the location. This plant gets its common name from its leaves, which are said to resemble the side of a trout. A brook trout maybe, but not a rainbow.

13. Bloodroot

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is another of our beautiful native wildflowers that I wanted to show you but it was cloudy, cold and windy on the day that I went to take their photo and they don’t like that kind of weather any more than we do, so they all closed up and wrapped themselves in their leaves. Earlier in the week they weren’t even showing yet, so they’ll be around long enough to give me another chance. Bloodroot’s common name comes from the poisonous blood red juice found in its roots. Native Americans once used this juice for war paint.

14. Red Elderberry Buds

The bud scales of red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) have opened to reveal lilac like flower buds. They are handsome at this stage but the whitish, cone shaped flowers are less than spectacular. Though this plant’s bright red berries are edible when cooked I’ve heard that they don’t taste very good. The leaves bark and roots are toxic enough to make you sick, so this shrub shouldn’t be confused with common elderberry (Sambucus nigra) which is the shrub that elderberry wine comes from.

15. Sedge

You might think this was just an old weed not worth more than a passing glance but if you did you’d be wrong, and you’d miss one of the high points of early spring in New England.

16. Sedge Flowering

Most people never see the beautiful flowers of Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) that appear on the weedy looking plant in the previous photo in mid-April. Creamy yellow male staminate flowers release their pollen above wispy, feather like, white female pistillate flowers but the female flowers always open first to receive pollen from a different plant. As the plant ages the male flowers will turn light brown and the female flowers, if pollinated by the wind, will bear seed. It’s a plant that is well worth a second look.

The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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1. Coltsfoot

One colony of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) that I used to visit was washed away in a flood last year and another much larger colony was plowed up by a logging skidder, but I found more growing alongside a dirt road near here. The Tussilago part of the scientific name comes from the Latin tussis, meaning cough, and ago, meaning to cast or to act on. Coltsfoot was originally brought from Europe by early settlers, to be used to treat coughs. I remember being given Pertussin cough syrup as a boy, but I don’t know if it had coltsfoot in it. I hope not, because scientists have found that the plant can cause liver tumors.

2. Coltsfoot

If you aren’t sure if you have found coltsfoot or dandelions just look at the stems. Coltsfoot stems are scaly and dandelion stems are smooth. Another clue would be that coltsfoot doesn’t grow leaves until after the flowers fade.

3. Diurnal Lightning Beetle aka Ellychnia corrusca on a Beech Bud

I saw a bug on a beech bud and spent quite a while trying to identify him, with little luck. I was able to get as far as learning that he was a beetle before asking the folks at bugguide.net for help. In no time at all they told me that I had found a diurnal lightning beetle (Ellychnia corrusca), which is a winter firefly that doesn’t light up. What he does do is drink sweet tree sap and is known to be a bit of a pest to maple syrup makers.

4. Diurnal Lightning Beetle  aka Ellychnia corrusca on a Beech Twig

This beetle lives in the crevices of maple bark all winter, not leaving the tree until March. I’m not sure why he was on a beech. He crawled down the twig and turned to face me and there we were, eye to eye, each studying the other.

5. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid

I used to drive for 45 minutes to see the one little colony of downy rattlesnake plantain orchids (Goodyera pubescens) that I knew of. Of course, you never know when a plant will bloom so I made this pilgrimage once or twice a week until I saw the flowers. Then, late last summer, I found a large colony of these beautiful plants not 5 minutes from my house. Proof once again that what we have been trying so hard to find is often right in front of us.

6. Box Elder Flowers

Years ago my grandmother had a large box elder tree (Acer negundo) in her front yard. Box elders are considered a weed tree but they provide excellent shade and that’s what my grandmother was interested in. They are very prolific as you can see by the photo of the flowers, and each tree grows thousands of very viable seeds. The seeds used to fall beside the foundation walls of my grandmother’s house and grow into small trees, so every year she would pay me a quarter to go around the house and pull them all up. One year I pulled up what I thought was a particularly fine specimen and I took it home with me. By the time I got it home the roots had dried out but I dug a hole and planted it anyway. That tree grew faster than anything I had ever seen and, at about 7 or 8 years old, gave me my first hint that plants and I just might get along.

7. Bluets

Cheery little bluets (Houstonia caerulea) have suddenly popped up in lawns. These flowers can range from nearly white to dark blue and each year I try to find the ones with the darkest color. Those in the above photo were much darker than those on nearby plants, so I chose them. Bluets are also, in my opinion, one of the hardest flowers there are to photograph. Rarely do I get a good sharp photo of them and on this day, 40 mile per hour wind gusts didn’t help.

8. Native Ginger Leaf

I was poking around in a spot where I know that our native wild ginger (Asarum canadense) grows, looking for signs of life, when I found this single new, very downy leaf unfurling. Though it might have been only minutes old and was hardly bigger than a mouse’s ear, an insect had already eaten a hole through it.

9. Magnolia Blossoms

Magnolia blossoms showed a tiny bit of browning from frost damage but they were still very beautiful, and fragrant enough to linger in memory long after the flowers were out of sight.

10. Trout Lily Bud

In a colony of tens of thousands of yellow trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) I stumbled onto one that had a bud. Why does this plant have a bud while none of the others do? Does it get more sunlight? Is it something in the soil? These are the kinds of questions that helped fuel my interest in plants at an early age. The answers have been few but I don’t mind. It’s the mystery that puts the magic in life.

11. Spring Beauty

Eastern spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) appeared overnight as they always seem to do. At this time of year I check the spot where they grow every couple of days and I’m always surprised to see them, because just a day or two earlier there was no sign of them. As I do with bluets, I always try to find the flower with the deepest color. 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. The same doesn’t appear to be true for bluets because I find dark colored ones in full sun.

12. Female American Hazelnut Flowers

I wanted to take another try at getting a shot of a female American hazelnut (Corylus Americana) blossom, the smallest flower I know of. I think this one came out better than the one I showed here two or three posts ago. I measure the bud on that last plant with Vernier calipers and found it to be only four thousandths of an inch in diameter (.004”), just about the same size as a single strand of spaghetti. You have to look up and down each stem very carefully to find these tiny things.

13. Blood Root Opening

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) had just unfurled its leafy cloak when I found it. The first open bloodroot flower of the season always tells me that May can’t be far away because bloodroot waits to be sure that it is really spring before it shows itself. Native Americans used the blood red sap of its root for war paint. I’ve always wanted to see it I’ve but I’ve never been able to convince myself that it would be okay to destroy one of these plants just to satisfy my curiosity.

14. Purple Trillium

Though last winter was the coldest in 10 years I saw my first purple trillium this week. It has bloomed earlier than the trilliums did both last year and in the spring of 2012, even though that spring was the 4th warmest ever. Whenever you start to think that you have plants all figured out they do something totally unexpected to remind you that you don’t.

There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is.
~Albert Einstein

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More flowers are blooming daily now and it’s getting a little harder to keep up with them. Here are just a few that I’ve seen.

Striped Squill

This striped sqill (Puschkinia scilloides, variety libanotica) was a big hit the last time I showed it here so I thought I’d give readers a little more information about where to find it. First, it is a spring flowering bulb that is planted in the fall, so it shouldn’t be ordered until mid to late summer.  The only place I have been able to find it for sale is Brent and Becky’s Bulbs’ spring / fall catalog, which you can view online by clicking here. Our friends in the U.K. can order them through Kevock Gardens by clicking here. If you order these bulbs you should remember to specify the variety, which is Libanotica. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t able to find a European supplier, but I’d bet that there is at least one out there.

Daffodil

Daffodils have just started blooming. These were the first ones I’ve seen.

 Magnolia Blossom

This is the first magnolia blossom I’ve seen. It was very fragrant, with a scent that reminded me of cabbage roses or peonies. The temperature might drop as low as 25 degrees tonight-I hope the petals don’t get nipped by frost.

Bloodroot

In the forest bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is all ready to bloom. This plant gets its common name from the way its root “bleeds” red sap when it is cut. Native Americans used the colored sap for decorating baskets, as war paint, and even as an insect repellant. Each plant has a single leaf and flower growing on separate stems.

False Hellbore Side

False hellebore (Veratrum viride) has just come up over the last 3 or 4 days. Though it was used by Native Americans in various ways including medicinally, this plant is one of the most toxic n the New England forest. Unfortunately at this time of year it is also one of the most interesting, and big enough to make it hard to miss. Most people who eat it mistake it for ramps and eat the root, which is its most potent part.

 False Hellebore Top

I like the patterns made by the deep pleats in the leaves of false hellebore. Its small green flowers are interesting, but not very pretty. I went looking for them last year and never found them, so I’ll have to try again.

Trout Lily

Yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum ) isn’t blooming yet but I they are very close. Each pair of leaves sends up one stalk which bears a single yellow, nodding flower. This plant is also called dogtooth violet because of the underground bulbous root that looks like a tooth.  The name trout lily comes from the way the mottled leaves resemble a trout’s body.

 Spring Beauty Blossom

Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) grow among the trout lilies. Each flower consists of 5 white, pink striped petals, 2 green sepals, 5 pink tipped stamens, and a single tripartite pistil, which means that it splits into 3 parts. Two days ago I didn’t see a single spring beauty blossom and now the woods are full of them.

Trillium

It seems early for trilliums here but these plants were growing out of a crack in a boulder, so maybe the sun-warmed stone gave them an extra boost.  These were very near a popular trail so I’m hoping nobody picks them before I get back to see the flowers.

Ramps

These leaves might not look like much but they cause quite a stir each spring, even causing entire towns to close down to have festivals in this plant’s honor. These are ramps (Allium tricoccum,) also called ramson, wild leeks, wood leeks, wild garlic, and spring onions. Ramps are native and considered a vegetable. Note the difference between these plants and false hellebore, above. Ramps are said to have a strong, garlic like odor and a strong onion taste. I can only vouch for the odor-they do smell a bit like garlic, but more like onion to me. Native Americans called the plant chicagou and, since it grew there in abundance, the city of Chicago was named after it.

Ramp Bulbs

The white, swollen lower stem of ramps is what all the fuss is about. Ramps remind me of the fiddleheads from ferns that are available for just a short time in spring. Both plants are considered great delicacies and are served in upscale restaurants at astronomical prices.  I haven’t seen any fiddleheads yet and was surprised at the size of these plants.

Dandelion

This dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) blossom is barely bigger than an acorn cap so it won’t win any prizes, but it’s the first one I’ve seen this spring. It seems like they are late this year.

Willow Blossom

We may have as many as nine different willow species here in New Hampshire and they all bloom at different times. This, one of the earliest, just started blooming. I believe the photo is of the male flower of Salix discolor, known as pussy or glaucous willow, but it could also be Goat Willow (Salix caprea.) Willows are one of my favorite spring flowers.

Skunk Cabbage with Leaf

 I hope you can stand another look at skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus.) I wanted to show people in places it doesn’t grow what the leaf looked like so they could see how much they really do resemble cabbage leaves at this stage. The leaves are the stinkiest part of the plant, so it’s doubtful that anyone could ever eat one by mistake. I had a woman stop while I was taking this picture and tell me that she was glad that these plants weren’t growing outside her bedroom window.

Blossom by blossom the spring begins~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

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In my last post were a lot of big, showy flowers. In this post are just the opposite; the tiny natives on the forest floor that are often hard to see. We need to keep our eyes to the ground and watch where we step. The nodding flowers of the native sessile bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) hide under the leaves with their opening towards the ground. Since these plants were only 6 inches tall I couldn’t get under the straw colored, one inch long flower to look into it.So I propped one up in the fork of a twig. Sessile bellwort flowers have three sepals and three petals, but it takes a botanist to tell them apart. They also have six stamens, which can be seen crowded into the flower opening. The word sessile relates to how the long, undulating, stalkless leaves look like they are sitting on the stem but don’t completely surround it. I found a colony of these growing in a moist forest where trillium, anemone, foamflower and meadow rue also grew. A common name of this plant is wild oats. I keep finding large drifts of flowers. Here bluets (Houstonia caerulea) carpet part of a field. Gardeners could learn a lot by paying attention to nature-flowers always look much more natural when they are planted in drifts.I saw both the bluest and whitest bluets I’ve ever seen growing less than five feet apart. I wish I knew what caused such color variations. A book by Maggie Nelson called Bluets begins “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” When you look at these flowers it’s easy to understand how she could write such a thing.Though I can’t say what causes the color variations in bluets, I read recently that the color variation in spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) is caused in part by the sun. In the study the lighter colored flowers were those that received the most sunlight. This is the darkest one I’ve seen, but it wasn’t in deep shade.This photo hasn’t been edited in any way-that’s exactly what the flower looked like, and it was a beauty. After it flowers the entire plant disappears until the following spring after having made a brief, 2 to 3 week appearance. Growing right alongside the spring beauties were yellow trout lilies (Erythronium americanum.) I’ve watched this large colony of plants for weeks, waiting for them to bloom. The “trout” part of the name comes from the slightly out of focus speckled leaves. Someone once thought they resembled the fish. The flower has 3 petals and 3 sepals which in full, warm sun, curve backwards to expose the long stamens and anthers. Petals and sepals are known as tepals on plants like these whose sepals and petals are indistinguishable. Trout lilies take from 4 to 7 years to bloom from seed. Before a trout lily’s tepals curl completely you can glimpse the darker bronze or maroon color on their outside surfaces. Each mature plant has two leaves and a single flower which is pollinated by ants and closes each night. This plant is also called the dogtooth violet because its white root is said to resemble a dog’s tooth. An old folk tale says that if a child swallowed one of its milk teeth you had to make him eat a dog violet petal, or his adult tooth would be long, like a dog’s tooth. The plant isn’t related to violets but it is easy to see why it is in the lily family. A spring beauty sat quietly watching nearby while I snapped pictures of the trout lily. The flower of the small flowered crowfoot (Ranunculus abortivus) was so small that I wasn’t sure if I could even get a picture of it. It is a member of the buttercup family and is also called kidney leaved buttercup, named for the round leaves at the base of the stem. Leaf shape changes on this plant so that the leaves further up the stem look nothing like those at the base. The flower has five petals, five sepals that usually bend downward, and many stamens surrounding a berry like center. This is all packed into a flower that is smaller than a pencil eraser. This unusual native, also called the kidney leaf buttercup, likes wet places and is considered poisonous. Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) is another tiny flower that you have to sprawl on the ground to get a picture of. What look like white petals on this flower are actually sepals; the petals are the club-like tiny yellow balls at the end of short stalks. The inset in the upper right shows the bright yellow root that gives the plant its name. The shiny, 3 lobed leaves make this one easy to spot. Native Americans chewed the roots of goldthread to treat canker sores, which is why the plant is also called canker root. The natives shared the plant with the English settlers and it became such a popular medicine that by 1785 shakers were paying 37 cents per pound for it dried, which meant people dug up all they could find. After a couple of centuries the plant has recovered enough to be relatively common once again. I played peek-a-boo with this wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) for over a week, visiting each day to see if the flower would be open. All I saw were pink buds like that on the right. Wood anemones refuse to open up if the temperature and light aren’t to their liking, and as soon as the sun moves enough to give them the signal they begin to retreat back into their buds.  I kept missing the open flowers until one day when I found one in the act of closing, but still open enough to get a glimpse of the hidden wonders. This is another native wildflower that doesn’t have petals but has 4 to 9 sepals that look like petals. These plants grew in very damp soil and were about 3 inches tall, with tiny flowers. This plant is considered poisonous. The Chinese call it the “Flower of Death,” and in some European countries it is thought to be a bad omen, though nobody seems to remember why. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen as many wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) plants as I have this spring. They must prefer mild winters. Later on if the bees do their job, each of these flowers will become a small but delicious strawberry. 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. After taking pictures of such very small flowers this red (or purple) flowered trillium seemed like a giant. It was only five inches tall but stood on a bit of a rise, so at least I was able to get my chin off the ground to photograph it. Those who read the last post will remember that this is a real stinker whose common name is stinking Benjamin. This trillium likes moist soil and all the sun it can get. Though it might seem that a flower like this one would be easy to see, that isn’t always the case. I’ve walked right by them many times and have even stepped on one or two over the years, unfortunately. Here in New Hampshire the trilliums I’ve seen grow singly or in groups of 3 to 5, but under the right conditions they can form huge colonies. If you would like to see an excellent example of that take a look at the photo of white trilliums by Jerry over at his quietsolopursuits blog. It’s an amazing sight to behold.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these tiny forest dwellers and hope you will find some too. Thanks for coming by.

Perchance we may meet on woodland trails where drifts of trilliums and singing robins still greet the spring.” ~Don Jacobs

 

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We had a strange, warm winter here in southwestern New Hampshire and now it appears that spring will be as strange, and even warmer. Temperatures in the 80s caused many flowers and trees to bloom as much as a month ahead of their average time. Now the cold returns and we all wait to see what harm it might do. Anything below 15 degrees will damage fruit tree buds enough so they won’t bear. 

I ran into these strange flower clusters in a local park and though I didn’t know what they were I took a few pictures. Once I had the time I began trying to identify them. At first I thought they might be Sassafras but they weren’t. After several hours of looking in shrub books and online, I now know this to be the Cornelian cherry (Cornus officinalis,) also known as Japanese Cornel Dogwood. It is an unusual member of the dogwood family that can bloom as early as February and isn’t often seen, except in city parks and arboretums.

Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)wasn’t unexpected, but I found them growing in a spot where trout lilies grew last year and I saw no sign of the lilies. Each flower last for only 3 days. 

It’s early for bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis.) Every time I see this flower with its strange stem clasping leaf I think of ancient times when travelers wrapped themselves in cloaks. Behind and to the right of the larger flower a green spike of lily of the valley is just emerging.

 The plant usually blooms in mid-April here and is called bloodroot because of the red sap that flows from the bruised root. One blossom was trying to open. These are among the most beautiful of early spring flowers.

Pussy willow (Salix) bloomed at the edge of a large vernal pool that will have completely disappeared before too long if this dry weather keeps on. 

Box (Buxus sempervirens) is a common shrub often used for hedges, but many don’t realize that its flower is worth waiting for. This is a good example of why shrubs shouldn’t be trimmed too early in spring. 

This tree didn’t look like an American elm (Ulmus americana,) but the flowers certainly looked like they belonged on an elm. The tree could be an elm hybrid, of which there are many. Elms have incomplete flowers lacking petals and sepals that hang at the end of long, thin stems (pedicels.) Three or four of these trees grow along a busy street in Keene, N.H. 

Red maple(Acer rubrum) flowers are easy to find in spring and are very fragrant. The photos above show the male (left) and female flowers. The male flowers have numerous colorful stamens with pollen bearing anthers on the ends and the female flowers have stigma bearing pistils, ready to receive the pollen. The trees can be confusing; some trees have only male flowers, some only female flowers, and some perfect flowers, which have both male and female parts. To make things even more confusing both male and female flowers can appear on the same tree, and flower color can range from yellow to red. The male flowers are responsible for much of the pollen floating about at this time of year. 

I was sorry to find ornamental cherry trees (Prunus) blooming. These blossoms are very susceptible to cold and with 2 or 3 below freezing nights in the forecast, I’m afraid their beauty was short lived this year. 

If you like a plant that is tough to identify, might I recommend one of the over 5000 sedge species? Without fruit a positive identification is close to impossible, but I’m fairly sure that this plant is Pennsylvania sedge, also called common oak sedge (Carex pensylvanica.) Here the pointed, scaly looking spike that is the staminate flower bud rises above the smaller and less noticeable pistillate flower buds on the same stalk. These plants are wind pollinated and native to eastern North America. The fruit holds a single, tiny seed.

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media) has a nice flower that it is only 1/8 of an inch across and easy to miss. Though it looks like the flower has 10 petals, there are really 5 with a deep notch dividing each one nearly in half. The 5 green sepals directly under the flower help to identify this one. Chickweed is very common in lawns. 

Hearts ease (Viola tricolor,) also known as Johnny jump ups. So why is it called tri color when only two colors are visible? Quite often the two uppermost petals will be blue or purple, but not always. The flowers can be white, purple, blue, yellow, or combinations of any or all of them. These were introduced from Europe so long ago that they are thought to be native by many. Today’s garden pansies were developed from this plant. 

A dandelion grew right next to the viola. This is the first one I’ve seen since I took a photo of one on December 21st. What a strange winter and spring!

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