Sunday, April 11, 2010

Posies and Puzzles

How I love the spring woods just as the new leaves are opening. Translucent as stained glass, the baby leaves cast little shade, but instead catch and transmit the sunlight, so the forest appears as if strung with twinkling lights.

The flowers that live on the forest floor take advantage of all this light and burst into bloom as soon as they can, before the shade darkens around them. At Bog Meadow Nature Trail, the Carolina Spring Beauties were reveling in today's warmth and sunshine and opened their buds by the dozen.

Last year, I didn't find these flowers until the first week of May, so they're blooming a little early. No matter when they bloom, they certainly live up to their name.

Another flower that's appearing ahead of schedule is Purple Trillium, also known as Wake Robin.
Most of the trilliums were still in bud today, but I did find a few that were already open.

Yesterday, at Moreau Lake State Park, the Dutchman's Breeches were just coming into bloom.

This plant grows abundantly along a small stream in the park, so it will make quite a sight when all those plants start dangling these little white pantaloons.

I had hoped to put my canoe in the river today, but a blustery wind discouraged me, so I hiked along the shore instead, skirting the bays by heading deep into the woods. While walking along, I had quite a start when I saw this heap of porcupine quills.

Could that be a baby? I wondered at first, but then noticed it wasn't moving. Good heavens, it's just a tail! So what happened to the rest of it?

Here's what I found nearby: another heap of quills. Just quills. No flesh, no bones, no sign of them. Not even any skin.

How odd! And such an orderly pile, not strewn about as you'd expect if some predator had attacked and eaten the porcupine. This sight had me puzzled, for sure!

Here's a little prettier sight: a ring of False Hellebore. I love these deeply creased, bright green leaves, so swirly and curvaceous.

In some ways, they're prettier now than when they grow tall and gangly and bear greenish nondescript flowers in June.

Bluets are always pretty. One of our earliest flowers to bloom, they'll put on a marvelous show through May, when, perched on almost invisible stems, they drift in masses across the grass, holding their sky-blue blossoms horizontally, as if to mirror the sky.

And they'll keep on blooming (though not so abundantly) through spring and summer and fall. I even have a photo of one dated December 12. But this is the earliest date I've ever recorded seeing them.

Are these little red caps flowers? Does moss have flowers? I've certainly seen the spore stalks of other mosses, so I'm assuming maybe these tiny (1/8 inch) structures function in a similar manner. But I can't be sure. Mosses are mysteries to me.

One thing I am sure of, though: they sure are cute!


suep said...

The only critter that might capable of doing THAT to a porcupine (without any harm to itself) is a fisher.
Oh those bluets ! like stars that fell to earth and kept shining

Jens Zorn said...

Still following, still enjoying your writing and photos....

Woodswoman Extraordinaire said...

Oh, how I love your spring beauty photo! Somehow, those delicate little veins elude me. I need a different camera lens. And you're right, the moss is adorable!

Ellen Rathbone said...

What treasures! And did you collect any of those quills to decorate a birch bark box or a pair of leather moccasins?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hello Sue and Jens and WoodswomanX and Ellen. I'm always so glad to have you stop by. We have two different species of Spring Beauty around here, and the Carolina species I photographed does have more pronounced purple lines than the other species, Virginia Spring Beauty. As for those quills: I poked at them with a stick, lifting up the mass to see if there were bones underneath, and found lots of creepy-crawlies. So no, I did not pick up the quills and put them in my pocket. I'll take you there to collect some, if you like.