Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Treats

It felt more like March than April today, with a cold wind blowing away the sun's warmth -- what there was of it, with clouds tearing across the sky. I decided to seek the shelter of woods for my daily walk and drove to the Ballston Creek Preserve, about ten miles south of Saratoga. I made sure to wear my muck boots, since the trails there can be not just muddy, but positively swampy.

Wow! What a difference just ten miles south can make, regarding the progress of spring. The snow was gone here weeks before it left the woods in Saratoga. Just two days ago I searched and searched in the Skidmore woods and found just a few signs of Trout Lily. But at Ballston Creek, the forest floor was carpeted with this flower's speckled leaves. No blossoms yet, however.

But there sure were a lot of Spring Beauties! Hundreds of them! Thousands! I've never seen such an abundance of this dainty pink bloom as I find each year in this Ballston Creek woods. I noticed a few tightly closed buds along the Bog Meadow Trail yesterday, but today in this woods, the wide-open blossoms were scattered among the dry leaves like stars across the sky.

I noticed, though, that this little bunch of Spring Beauties was looking none too healthy, with shriveled brown buds and a leaf infected with some kind of orange pox.

Here's a closer look at that pox, probably some kind of fungus attacking the leaf in a most spectacular way. Happily, I didn't find any other plant patches similarly infested.

Walking back to my car, I was startled to find a patch of Bloodroot blooming in a roadside ditch. Is any flower more pristine in its whiteness? Or sunnier in its aspect? What a treat to find it on a chilly day that felt like spring was moving backwards.

And look what other treat I found today, in another roadside ditch: Ramps! This wild variety of onion is delicious chopped up, leaves and all, and sauteed in a little butter. But just to look at their pretty shapes and colors is a treat all by itself.


June said...

All I would need to stay alive in the wild would be you (for fruit and vegetables) and MiMau (for fresh meat).

I understand the surprise of different climates within short distances. Up here on the hill the plants are all a week behind the ones a mile down the road in the valley.

Wayne said...

Wonderful finds! Just catching up with your adventures again. While I was out of town all the snow melted, so my shot of Trillium nivale had no snow (I think I was there the same day as you were).

Glad to see how neat you are in collecting edible plants. When I worked at SUNY-ESF, our botany professors would get urgent plant ID requests from the hospitals each year from doctors working to save people who were not so careful selecting only the right plants.

Pauline said...

I love that it's the little flowers that dare to brave the mercurial spring weather. The big showy ones wait for more favorable conditions. It's a treat to go on virtual walks with you!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

June, we'd probably survive but grow very thin on wild greens, berries, and fungi, unless MiMau's a good shot. Some of the stuff tastes pretty good, though. I once made a salad for dinner by walking around my city block gathering chickweed, purslane, and lamb's quarter from where they grew between the cracks of the sidewalk.

Wayne, my friend Sue and I were just wondering how you were. I'm glad to hear you're out in the woods taking your spectacular photos, which all my readers can see by clicking on your name. I agree, one has to be very careful about eating foraged plants. I heard about someone who mistook the early shoots of False Hellebore (very poisonous!) for Ramps.

Thanks for your kind comment, Pauline. Have you noticed, too, that many of the really early bloomers, like Hepatica and Leatherwood, have furry buds to keep them warm?

catskill Bob said...

Jackie, you might be interested in an article in today's New York Times about leeks:


Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Catskill Bob, for the NY Times reference. I did see that article and will always follow the directive to harvest no more than one-tenth of a patch of Ramps no more often than every ten years.