Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hepatica Festival

It was Hepatica Festival today in Skidmore Woods.  And quite a conjuring act.  When I first entered the woods, all I saw were brown dead leaves.  Then, Ooh! There's one!  And then, There's another!  And then, as if Mother Nature waved her magic wand, the forest floor just seemed to burst into bloom: hepaticas everywhere!  It's funny,  how at first I couldn't see any, but once I saw one, I saw them by the hundreds.  In all their lovely variations on the color purple.  Here are just two examples.  Note how the color bleaches out just at the very edge of each petal, making the flower look like it has a halo.  Heavenly!

All other flowers seem to be on hold.  We need a good warm soaking rain to spur their growth.  The vernal pools have shrunk dramatically over the last few days.  I hope the frogs' and toads' and salamanders' eggs have time to hatch.  I did find a couple of plants with flower buds: trillium and trout lily.  But just one of each.  Seems to me I should have seen dozens.

Then I came upon the first flowering shrub of spring: Leatherwood.  The twin yellow bells of its flower had just burst their fur-covered bud. (Is it just coincidence that the earliest flowers - coltsfoot, hepatica, leatherwood, shadblow - all have fuzzy budcovers?  Like buntings meant to keep the baby buds warm.)  If you try to break off a twig of this shrub, you better have sharp scissors handy.  The bark is impossible to tear - stringy and tough as leather.  That's how the shrub got its name.  I have read that native people used strips of this bark as twine.

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