Saturday, May 4, 2013
What a Few Warm Days Will Do
Wow! The floral floodgates have opened! Just over a week ago, my friends and I were shivering through the Skidmore Woods, wearing hats and scarves and gloves, wondering when we would see any flowers besides Hepatica, a flower that, thanks to its furriness, can brave the coldest springs. Well, a warmer spring has now sprung, for sure! A string of bright sunny days in the upper 70s has summoned the spring ephemerals to not just waken, but to jump right out of bed. A walk through the Skidmore Woods today found scads of flowers hurrying up with their blooming business, making up for lost time before the tree canopy closes in.
Hundreds of Large-flowered White Trilliums carpeted an acre or more of the forest floor (above), and not far away, even more numbers of snowy-white Wood Anemones filled a hollow that just a few days ago showed no signs of either their leaves or their buds.
Large-flowered Bellworts were tightly furled shoots just a few days ago, but today I found their bright yellow flowers dangling wherever I looked.
The yellow-flowered species of Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) was blooming today, giving me a chance to examine its wide-open flowers, to see if I could detect any differences between this and the purple-flowered species (C. giganteum) that came into bloom a week or so earlier.
Luckily, a few plants of C. giganteum were still in flower right nearby, so I could easily look from one to the other. I determined that the yellow flowers were slightly smaller than the purple ones, but otherwise they looked very much the same. Size, color, bloom time, and the fact that the yellow flowers don't open until after their leaves have unfurled (the purple flowers appear simultaneously with their opening leaves) are factors that botanists now have considered significant enough to assign these two Cohoshes to different species. Not every wildflower guide acknowledges this.
At the same time that botanists have agreed to separate those species of Cohosh, they are now uniting what used to be different species of violets into one. The name Viola soraria used to designate only this violet pictured here, the Wooly Blue Violet, distinguished by its wooly stems and the hairy undersurfaces of its leaves, as well as by its hairless lower lip.
But now that species name is used as well for the Common Blue Violet (which used to be V. papilionacea) and also for the Broad-leaved Wood Violet (which used to be V. latiuscula). I'm sure they have their reasons, these botanists, but I still think that this Wooly Blue Violet looks different enough from the Common Blue that I will continue to call them by different names.
Speaking of violets, these beautiful flowers were out in full force today, in most of their many varieties. There were Downy Yellows and Smooth Yellows (two stemmed violets now considered a single species) as well as lots and lots of Long-spurred Violets and even a few Common Blues. I was glad to find the two violets pictured here so close together, for both are considered indicator species for a limey substrate.
That's Canada Violet (Viola canadensis) on the left, with purple buds but with blooms that are pure white on the front with traces of purple remaining on the backs of the petals. Many people would never recognize the tall plant on the right as a violet, but that is indeed the family into which botanists have placed it, although they have assigned it to a different genus. This is Green Violet (Hybanthus concolor), and its flowers don't look much like violets, either. They aren't blooming yet, but when they do, they'll be little green hump-backed nubbins dangling from the leaf axils.
Not only were there lots and lots of new flowers to find today (I counted 18 newly blooming species), there were also many tree buds unfurling their tender new leaves. These baby Red Oak leaves, so furry and crimson, stood out from all the surrounding greenery.
Who would guess that these flame-shaped leaves belong to the Round-leaved Dogwood? I sure wouldn't, if I hadn't already known the red-stemmed shrub they were newly emerging from. There's even a flower bud fully formed, just waiting to open into a cluster of small white four-petaled blooms. The leaves will grow rounder as they mature.
Is there any leaf bud more dramatic than that of the Shagbark Hickory? First, it is absolutely huge as tree buds go, and then its cluster of compound leaves fairly explodes from its scales of apricot and lime-green satin.
I wasn't the only one to admire the Shagbark Hickory sprouts. This beautiful Mourning Cloak butterfly stopped on one to take a rest and stayed for a good long time, allowing me to creep in close to take a pretty good portrait.