The ice is all gone from Moreau Lake. Not even a few brittle bits remain in the shadiest coves. On Sunday, the first of this string of gorgeous shirt-sleeve warm days, my husband and I enjoyed a walk around the lake, the sand soft and warm beneath our feet, that cobalt sky lifting our winter-weary spirits.
The water shimmered and sparkled, almost as if it were dancing for joy, freed at last from its prison of ice. How beautiful these multi-colored pebbles appeared beneath the rippling water close to shore.
Today, the warmest day so far, I met my friend Bonnie Vicki at the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve. Bonnie had never seen the sweet little Snow Trilliums (Trillium nivale) that grow there (and probably nowhere else in the state), and I was delighted that they were still in perfect bloom. They've been blooming now for almost two weeks, and the intervening cold weather helped to lengthen their bloom-time. All of their buds were now wide open -- as wide as this itty-bitty flower can open them!
Bonnie and I then joined some friends at Lester Park in Greenfield, a site that is famous for ancient seabed fossils that have contributed their minerals to the soil, creating perfect habitat for many spring wildflowers.
There's a spectacular outcropping here of these fossils -- called stromatolites -- which resemble sliced-open cabbages turned to stone. These are the 490-million-year-old remains of some of the earliest life forms to inhabit our planet, the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). In the process of forming these calcareous structures, the cyanobacteria depleted the carbon dioxide that predominated in the primordial atmosphere, allowing for the development of an oxygen-rich atmosphere essential to the development of advanced life forms, creating the very air we all now need to breathe.
Well, this geology is all quite interesting, but we were here today in the hopes that we might find some long-awaited spring wildflowers, and oh my, we were not disappointed! What incredible numbers we saw of Sharp-lobed Hepaticas (Anemone acutiloba) carpeting the forest floor!
What a sight for eyes grown weary of winter's dull colors!
Almost as abundant at this site as hepaticas were uncountable numbers of Squirrel Corn plants (Dicentra canadensis), a few of them already lifting stalks of soon-to-open buds.
At this stage of growth, Squirrel Corn is almost indistinguishable from its close relative, Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), but an examination of its root structure revealed the yellow corms distinctive to this species. The corms of Dutchman's Breeches are red, not yellow. From the look of these yellow corms, it's easy to see how the Squirrel Corn's common name came about. (We promptly replanted this little plant!)
Most of our friends were already departing when Bonnie exclaimed she had found a single plant of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) that was already sporting its distinctive solitary brown bloom. Like the other wildflowers that prefer this site, Wild Ginger prefers a soil enriched with calcium.
We also discovered a few little Bloodroot plants (Sanguinaria canadensis), their pristine white blooms still wrapped in enfolding leaves. If this warm weather continues, I expect to see thousands of these exquisite little flowers adorning many roadside ditches and forest edges before too long.
What a thrill it had been, after waiting so long this very cold spring, to find so many of our favorite wildflowers blooming today. And we still had one more treat in store. On our way back to where Bonnie had left her car at the Orra Phelps Preserve, we swung into the Skidmore College campus, where I wanted to check on a patch of English Violets (Viola odorata) I knew to grow there. At first we found only the leaves, but just as we turned to leave a flash of purple caught our eye. Aha! there it was!
We knew it was this particular species of violet when we examined its interior and found its distinguishing hooked style. What a pleasure to find this lovely flower, and not just for our eyes, but for our noses as well. This is one exceedingly fragrant violet, as its specific epithet, odorata, would suggest. A nice little treat to top off this already wonderful, flower-filled, warm spring day.