Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Earth Day Events in Skidmore Woods
Blue Cohosh flowers
The Skidmore woods was Earth Day festive today, with masses of dazzling Bloodroot spangling the forest floor and hundreds of Trout Lilies dangling their bright-yellow bells. Blue Cohosh was up, purple stems crowned by clusters of greenish-brown flowers (the blue of its name comes from the blue of its late-summer berries/seeds). Most of the Purple Trillium were still tucked away in their buds, but I found just one that was bowing its dark red head as if to honor our Earth. Or hanging its head as if in sadness for what we humans have done to harm our planet. (I tipped the blossom up to take its photo.)
The May Apple sprouts were shooting up, stout stalks enfolded by one or two pleated leaves, furled tight like collapsed umbrellas.
Looking closely, I noticed what looked like a light green pea nestled between two leaves. Gently moving the leaves apart, I found the flower bud. This bud and its consequent flower and fruit will later be shaded from summer's sun by the twin parasols of its leaves, but today it was peeking out at the soft spring day, like a new-hatched chick from its nest.
The May Apple plant puts on quite a show as the season progresses, spreading its large green leaves and crowding together in colonies that shade out all other plants. It's elegant flower --one to each twin-leaved plant -- has six to nine waxy white petals and is hidden from view by the leaves. The "apple" (actually, a berry) ripens to a soft velvety yellow in late summer. This fruit has a pleasant fragrance, but a rather insipid flavor. All the rest of the plant is poisonous, as is the fruit when unripe. One of its toxic chemicals, podophyllotoxin, is a source of drugs used to treat cancer.
As we bulldoze our woods for buildings, and surround our vacation "cabins" with manicured (read poisoned) lawns, May Apple's habitat (along with the plant's cancer-fighting toxin) grows scarcer and scarcer. Just something to think about as we celebrate Earth Day 2009.