Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Home Turf Search for Spring
My hunger for signs of spring has sent me driving far afield this week, and, what with the price of gas, it was getting kind of expensive. So today I stuck close to home and stayed on foot, hoofing it up North Broadway to the Skidmore Woods and what I call The Violet Path. Here's where a very early white violet grows, one whose species had me mystified for years until just last year, when New York's Chief Botanist Steve Young put me in touch with the nation's foremost violet authority, who promptly identified it as Viola odorata alba, or White English Violet. I wrote a post about this violet exactly one year ago today (see it here), so I wanted to check its progress, even though I know that this cold snowy weather has put spring flowers on hold. As this photo shows, the woods is still mostly covered, but at least the side of the path where the violets grow is now open to the sun.
Oh brave little beauties! See, they are putting forth buds. Note, too, how the leaves and stems are all furry, which seems to be a common trait among early-blooming plants. Perhaps these warm woolies protect them from the cold. Maybe we'll even have blossoms by next week.
The Skidmore Woods provides a remarkable habitat for many rare species of flowers because of its limestone substrate. Evidence of this limestone is everywhere, including in this old stone wall that encircles one of the college's buildings.
Making a home for itself in that wall was this fuzzy orange stuff called Trentepohlia aurea, a green alga that is known to love limey rocks. I know it's odd that an orange organism would be called a green alga, but this alga contains a chemical that masks the green chlorophyll.
Walking home, I found a few more signs that spring is on the way. This patch of sidewalk was wet not with rain nor with melting snow, but rather with sap dripping from the maple branches above.
Yes, I know we've had robins all winter, flocks of them foraging in crabapple trees and berry thickets. But this one was running across the grass, cocking its head to spy for worms, and actually grabbing some. Definitely springtime behavior!
And then I found Snowdrops and Crocuses. Normally, I would consider them beneath my notice, since they are garden plants and not true wildflowers. But this year, I am really starving to see ANY flowers at all.
This, too, was a garden plant. I don't know the name of it (some kind of anemone?), but I do know I was pleased to see its sunny yellow bloom.