Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Buds Are Busting Out All Over
A summer-like heat descended on us today, shocking a bunch of buds into bloom at last. As I drove around the county today to check on the burgeoning botanica, I was delighted to see that almost every marshy roadside was carpeted with the brilliant yellow flowers of Marsh Marigold.
My first stop was at the Yaddo rose gardens, not to check out the formal plantings, but rather to see what marvelous weeds had sneaked into the beds and were blooming their heads off before the gardeners could yank them out. Here's one of my favorites, a pretty Mint-family plant with the awful name of Purple Dead Nettle. The "purple" part of the name is obvious, and yes, the leaves could be said to resemble those of nettles, but what's "dead" got to do with one of the first flowers to return to life in the spring?
Lots of TWJs (tiny white jobs) were happily making their home beneath the Privet hedge guarding the formal gardens, including this Common Chickweed. As its name implies, chickens just love this stuff, and for good reason. The tender little leaves are really quite pleasant to taste, used raw in a salad.
Several different kinds of small-flowered mustards were thriving here, including this one called Shepherd's Purse, with its pretty basal rosettes of deeply cleft leaves. Its triangular seed pods supposedly resemble the purses carried by ancient shepherds. This is also an edible plant, but the greens should be harvested before the flowers arise.
This is probably Small-flowered Bittercress, another Mustard-family plant with the four-petaled flowers typical of this family. I say "probably," because there are a lot of small white-flowered mustards that bloom this time of year and not all of them are described in Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, or Peterson's, either.
For example, I can't find in my books any flower that exactly matches this one, with its amply-leaved basal rosette, hairy stem, cluster of blooms on top, as well as additional flowers that grow from the axils of the few leaves that grow alternately along the stem.
All I can say for sure is that it's some kind of small white mustard. Anybody know its name?
I wasn't sure of the name of these tree flowers, either, although I suspected they might be Box Elder, having a mapley look to them and sprouting from a twig with a bluish bloom. A female Box Elder grows right outside my kitchen door and it doesn't have any flowers that look like this, so could this be the flower that grows on male trees? An internet search for "box elder male flowers" quickly confirmed my guess. That's quite an elaborate structure, reminding me of a many-tiered fountain with cascading waters.
I didn't really expect to find Rue Anemone blooming today, since the first year I found them at this site was in mid-May in a normally warm spring, not a long cold spring like the one we've had this year. But wonder of wonders, there they were! And with lots of buds yet to open, so the show will continue for some time. Such an exquisite flower! And one I rarely find in Saratoga County.
I did expect to see these English Violets (Viola odorata) in full bloom, since I've been watching their buds for almost two weeks. I found Common Blue Violets blooming today, as well, but I particularly wanted to visit these violets, just to breathe in their fragrance. Aaaah!
If you didn't notice their fragrance, you might mistake them for Common Blues, but a closer inspection reveals the long-conic style with a hook on it, which is diagnostic for this violet. That was something I learned from noted violet authority Harvey Ballard, who helped me identify this species, after it had puzzled me for years.
Normally, I have a strong aversion to picking any wildflower, but today I succumbed to temptation and gathered a little nosegay to bring home with me to perfume my rooms.