Thursday, April 29, 2010
A Windy Day Treasure Hunt
Clear and sunny today, not too cold, but the wind was throwing the treetops around like crazy. I'd planned on a paddle, but settled instead for a walk in the woods, hoping not too many branches would crash down on me. And they didn't. It was actually quite pleasant under the trees, sheltered from the wind, and the path was lit with warm sunshine, since the canopy has not yet closed in. I went looking for treasure, and, sure enough, I found it: the rare Goldenseal, just up from the ground, its leaves still crumpled but its petal-less flowers opening to the sun. That ring of anthers will turn more golden as the pollen ripens.
Close by that Goldenseal I found the first Jack-in-the-Pulpit I've seen this year. But this one looks like it's got the yellow measles. I'm sure these spots are a sign that the plant's not too healthy, but they actually look kind of pretty, like polka dots.
Here's another unexpected beauty. These raggedy fading Hepatica leaves were growing on a steep bank at such an angle that the sun lit them up from above and turned them this radiant rose.
Speaking of rosy radiance, these Staghorn Sumac shoots put on quite a show, as well, with their glossy, curvaceous leaves emerging from stalks of red velvet.
These violets grew along the path and I almost passed them by without a glance, but something about them caught my eye. Hey, I said, those stems are fuzzy! The Common Blue Violets they looked like usually have smooth stems. So out came the Newcomb's, where I turned the pages to find basal-leaved blue violets with downy stems. Hmmm . . . could they be Northern Blue Violets?
Nope. The Northern Blues have a lower petal that's "soft hairy on the inside at the base." The lower petal of these violets is definitely smooth, although the side petals certainly are hairy.
Well then, could they be Wooly Blue Violets? Newcomb's doesn't show a picture but does describe the leafstalks and undersurfaces of the leaves as being "more hairy than those of the Northern Blue Violet." The leafstalks and undersurfaces were certainly hairy, so my guess is that these are Wooly Blue Violets.
I always feel excited when I find a flower that's new to me, so when I got home I Googled "Wooly Blue Violets (Viola sororia)" only to find that these are considered just a variety of the Common Blue Violet. So no great find, you say? Sure, they're not rare, but they were a great find to me, since I got to go through the steps of keying them out and coming to a conclusion. That's the fun of the hunt for wildflower nuts, whether the plant is as rare as Goldenseal or as common as Common Blue Violets (Wooly variety).
Besides, I did find a kind of uncommon violet: the Canada Violet. This snowy-faced violet is distinguished by a purple back that you can't see in this photo. I feel really blessed to find this lovely violet each spring, since in nearby states like Connecticut, Maine, and New Jersey it's listed as threatened or endangered, and Rhode Islanders haven't seen it for many years.