Monday, February 16, 2009

Signs of Spring

Oh, I haven't seen a crocus or a rosebud . . . but I have seen a bud of skunk cabbage, so Spring can't be far behind.  The purplish bulb in the photo is the emerging spathe, a hollow chamber that encloses the flowering spadix, an egg-shaped club covered with tiny yellowish flowers that many flower books say stink like rotting meat. Maybe they do to pollinating flies, but not to me (and I've stuck my nose right in there and taken a good sniff).  They smell just a little garlicky, like the rest of the plant.  At any rate, the flowers won't bloom for a month or so, when the spathe opens up, but in the meantime this plant is generating heat all on its own, enough to even start melting the snow around it.  It's definitely the first flower of Spring, but you won't find many songs or poems written about it.

I found this bud in the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve, an 18-acre wooded preserve off Parkhurst Road in Wilton.  Orra Phelps (1895-1986) was a pioneering Adirondack naturalist and mountaineer (a true nature girl) who lived across the road from this lovely patch of woods, which was opened to the public in 1998, thanks to a gift from Orra's heirs. The preserve has woodsy paths and babbling brooks and, best of all, an old sand pit -- perfect habitat for fringed gentian, which grows here abundantly come September.  It's also a fern-lover's paradise, supporting about 30 of the 40 fern varieties native to New York State. 

 I didn't find any ferns today.  Even the evergreen kind were buried under about 18 inches of snow.  But I did find some fern-shaped ice crystals glittering by the side of a brook.   The brooks were in full-throated babble today:  another sign of approaching Spring.


NatureGirl said...

As much as I love the Adirondacks, I do find myself missing all those little things from down below, like skunk cabbage. It's been years since I've seen one of those!

How does one get to the Orra Phelps Preserve? I've tried to find it in the past, without success. We did a collaborative educational program with the Wild Center and ADK a few years back, where we were sort of recreating Orra for educational programs in schools. My boss volunteered me to be Orra since I had been trying to put together a living history program here for a few years (it has fizzled). So, I visited two schools dressed as Orra, supposedly portraying her. The problem was that the kids already knew me from other programs, so for them it was just me doing another nature lesson. Oh, well. Neat lady, though. Very good biography- I highly recommend it.

Woodswalker said...

I've read the biography by Phelps's niece Mary Arakelian, called "Doc". Quite a neat lady indeed! I wonder: was Orra related to Old Mountain Man Phelps?

Here's how to get to Orra Phelps Nature Preserve: Exit 16 of the Northway (I-87), go west on Ballard Road. Cross US9 and continue west about 100 yards to Parkhurst Road on the left. Follow Parkhurst a mile or so to historic marker and parking area for the preserve on the left. Just before this area is a large white frame 19th-century house on the right side of the road, where Orra lived. Let me know when you want to visit. I'll meet you there. Lots of beautiful Spring ephemerals: nodding trillium, round-leaf violets, Dutchman's breeches, etc.

greentangle said...

Thanks for the skunk cabbage; it was one of my favorites when I lived in MA but unfortunately I can't get to any where I am now.

Woodswalker said...

Greentangle, thanks for visiting. I just spent almost an hour reading the posts in your blog, each one more and more interesting. I'm very new to the blogosphere and am so excited to find how we are all connected by our love of and fear for the natural world.

greentangle said...

Thanks, Woodswalker, I'm glad you enjoyed my blog. I'm sure you'll also hate some of my posts--I'm cranky and opinionated--but I try to provide a variety.

Yours is lovely, though the photos make it a little slow for my dial-up connection. I tend to avoid photo-heavy blogs for that reason but suspect I'll keep coming to yours--like the northeast setting as well.