On Wednesday, I stopped by the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve on my way to the Hudson River at Moreau. In a dampish area along the trail, masses of Dog Violets were just starting to open their pale lavender blooms. This is one of our "stemmed" violets, with flowers and leaves both sprouting from the same stem, distinguishing it from our Common Blue Violet, which has basal leaves only and a leafless flower stem.
On a higher and dryer bank further on, I found the Dutchman's Breeches dangling their little white pantaloons. In a few days, those yellow tips will open and spread to allow the bumblebees to insert their long proboscises into the nectaries deep inside the blossoms.
A surprising find in a nature preserve renowned for its native flora, this Siberian Squill, a horticultural species, must have escaped from some neighboring flower garden. Let's hope that it knows how to mind its company manners and not take over the woods, as introduced species are often wont to do.
The Periwinkle is just such a species of introduced plant that has taken to our native woodlands way too happily. There's no question that it's a beautiful plant, bearing abundant blooms of the loveliest blue.
The problem is, that wherever Periwinkle grows, absolutely no other flower is allowed to share its ground. In this thoroughly periwinkled patch of woods that borders the Hudson River at Moreau, not a violet nor trillium nor Jack-in-the-pulpit can be found for acres around.
On Thursday I joined the Thursday Naturalists on a trip to a nature preserve south of Albany (an adventure that will be described in a separate post), and today, Friday, I went for a walk through the Skidmore Woods. This particular woods, with its limey soils, is famous for its wonderful array of spring ephemerals, including many different species of violets. The first ones I came across today were the beautiful Long-spurred Violets, snuggled into crannies of the many boulders that form the forest substrate. These violets can be quite pale in color, almost as if all their color had run to pool in dark patches at the center.
Another violet blooming today was the Downy Yellow Violet, with an obviously downy stem.
Dwarf Ginseng was just beginning to open its clusters of tiny white flowers. Unlike its much larger cousin that is sought after for medicinal uses and which persists into the fall, this tiny plant will completely disappear soon after its blooming period ends.
Wood Anemone held its pristine white flowers completely open to the warm sun today. If a chill descends, or clouds cover the sky, those blooms will retreat into their pinkish bud covers.
The purplish-brown variety of Blue Cohosh bloomed last week (and continues blooming still), but this variety with greener flowers was just opening today.
Mayapple has pushed its tightly folded umbrellas up from the earth. The fully mature plants that have two leaves will bear a flower (and later, a fruit), the bud of which can be seen peeking out from between the still-folded leaves.
In a couple of weeks, stunning masses of Large-flowered White Trilliums will cover large areas of the woods. For the present, we have to search to find the much more solitary Red Trillium, which tends to hide its pretty face by bending downward under its leaves. I confess that I lifted this bloom up and placed it atop its leaves, the better to capture its vivid color in a photograph.
The odd weather this spring has played tricks with the normal schedule of bloom for many spring flowers, with many blooming far earlier than ever before. The recent stretch of much colder weather has slowed that process considerably, so that many early bloomers are still with us. The Bloodroot, for example, which usually comes and goes in a few brief days, is still coming up and opening its sweet sunny faces all over the woods.
The Trout Lilies have just exploded into bloom from when I reported finding just one or two a few days ago. Now they carpet some areas of the woods so thickly it's impossible to walk among them. I hope those darned Red-necked False Blister Beetles finally get their fill of lily pollen and leave some of those lovely crimson anthers alone.
Speaking of crimson, the maple trees are now unfolding their bunches of tiny red leaves. What a sight it is, when these translucent leaves catch the sunlight and glow like stained glass.
This Red Maple tree stands in front of my house, where the sight of its vivid red boughs against that deep blue sky just took my breath away as I arrived home today.