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Posts Tagged ‘Toothwort’

This is a continuation of Wednesday’s post about those small miracles that are happening in the forest each day at this time of year; leaves unfurling from their buds. Much of what is seen here is fleeting and will last only a day or two at best, so it is easily missed.  Flower lovers don’t despair-the next post will be full of them. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. A new shaggy shoot, or fiddlehead, of the evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides.) This is a common fern found all over America, but also one of the few that is truly evergreen. As the current season’s fiddleheads emerge the previous year’s fronds are still green.

 Trilliums are all about the number three. Even the name trillium comes from the Latin tres, meaning three. On this red trillium (Trillium erectum) the three green sepals have just opened enough to show the three red petals. Once open the flower will nod under the three leaves (actually bracts,) and be mostly hidden from view for a short time before finally standing erect above the leaves. Inside the flower are six stamens and three stigmas. If flies pollinate the flower a three chambered, red fruit will grow. I liked the accordian like patterns I saw in the new leaves of this rose (Rosa rugosa.) This was taken just after a rain and I was surprised to see the leaves holding water. Early Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dioicum) has its emerging leaves coiled into a tight bud.  When the bud expands it will uncoil from the base. The plants are dioecious, with male and female flowers blooming on separate plants in early spring just as the leaves on trees unfurl. Many people grow this plant for its grayish, maidenhair fern-like foliage, which also  resembles that of columbine (Aquilegia.Willow (Salix) leaves emerging after the flowers (pussies) have gone to seed. Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ) is another common spring wildflower, but it isn’t often seen at this stage of its life. The green foliage of the spathe is striped even when in the bud. The flower bearing spadix (Jack) inside the striped spathe (the pulpit) of the female plant has a mushroom like odor and attracts fungus flies, which pollinate the plant. Jack in the pulpit is in the same family (arum) as skunk cabbage and needs at least three years from seed to flower. This plant was eaten by Native Americans, but is highly toxic unless thoroughly cooked. The single dandelion seed resting on a leaf tells the tale of how small these emerging white oak (Quercus alba) leaves really are. The leaves are covered with soft gray down when small. The new leaves of hawthorn (Crataegus) come with a bit of a surprise: 2 inch long thorns that explain the common name thorn apple. This thorny shrub is in the rose family and small berries, called haws, follow the white or light pink flowers. The berries are usually red when ripe but they can also be black. They have been used medicinally at least since the 1st century AD. The black scales on lady fern (Athyrium felix-femina) fiddleheads make them one of the easiest to identify. They are one of the largest ferns, with fronds sometimes five feet tall. Because they are so lacy and showy, people in the Victorian era grew them indoors. Oil from the roots has been used medicinally since the 1st century AD, but too much can cause weakness, coma, and often blindness. In my last post I talked about how this plant, what I think might be the cut leaved toothwort, held me mesmerized in the forest for quite some time with its fluid, almost tortured appearance. It made me imagine high winds when there wasn’t even a gentle breeze. In this photo its flower buds can be seen.

“And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”
~Percy Bysshe Shelley

For me it is important to see and try to comprehend life’s mysteries, because the mystery is what makes life so exciting.  I hope you enjoyed seeing these moments in time. Thanks for stopping by.

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For this post science has bet set aside in favor of the beauty of things we might not think of as beautiful. Spring is certainly the time for wildflowers but there are many other things happening in the forest as well. One of those is bud break, when leaves of every kind begin to unfurl. Sometimes emerging leaves can be every bit as beautiful as spring flowers and sometimes not, but beautiful or not, it is always interesting to see plants at this stage.

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), Buds. These are often called candles in the nursery trade. New Norway maple (Acer platanoides) leaves. More new maple leaves. I think the contrast between the leaves of the red maple (Acer rubrum ) shown here and those of the Norway maple in the previous photo is amazing.

Japanese knotweed is an invasive species, but I thought its unfurling buds were very beautiful. Unfortunately this plant spreads rapidly and chokes out native species. It was imported as an ornamental in the 1800s from Japan. Maybe the side of it seen here was the reason why. New Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) leaves and flower bracts from last fall’s blooms. It takes a full year for witch hazel flowers to become fruit.

 New leaves of box elder (Acer negundo.)  The box elder is in the maple family and is the only maple with compound leaves. It isn’t hard to see why “stag horn” became part of this sumac’s name (Rhus typhina.) The fruit of staghorn sumac is an important winter emergency food for birds and other wildlife. I thought that these American beech (Fagus grandifolia) leaves were every bit as beautiful as a flower. They seemed to have a gray ‘aura’ along their outside edges, or maybe it was just the way the light was shining on them. These and many other plants are showing their leaves up to three weeks early. A hard freeze now would do a lot of damage, especially to fruit trees. Orchardists are anxiously waiting for mid-May when the danger will have passed. Emerging fiddleheads of Maidenhair fern. I think that these are the most beautiful and delicate of all the ferns, and are one of my favorites.  They grow in hardwood forests in soils with relatively high levels of moisture, nutrients, and high-quality organic matter, so they aren’t often seen in the wild. I have some growing in a shady spot here in the yard. At this stage they are a magical thing to see. What I think is cut leaved toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) seemed to be caught in a strong wind, even though there wasn’t even a gentle breeze blowing.  I was fascinated by the movement in these leaf buds as they opened and sat studying the plant for quite a little while, fully absorbed in its world and lost to my own.

“Now is the time of the illuminated woods … when every leaf glows like a tiny lamp.”  ~ J. Burroughs 

I hope that you have also had time to see the wonders of nature unfolding. Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

 

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