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.