Monday, April 1, 2019

Wee Wonderful Weeds!

 An abundant cluster of Draba verna, one of our earliest -- and smallest! -- flowers of spring.
"Within a few weeks now Draba, the smallest flower that blows, will sprinkle every sandy place with small blooms. He who hopes for spring with upturned eye never sees so small a thing as Draba. He who despairs of spring with downcast eye steps on it, unknowing. He who searches for spring with his knees in the mud finds it, in abundance."   --  Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949

Aldo Leopold could have been writing about me today, crawling around this most unpromising patch of dirt next to a BJ's Warehouse wall at the Wilton Mall.

For here, in this scrappy stretch of what looks at first glance to be only a barren wasteland, I found for the first time this spring the delightful little wildflower that Leopold waxes so enthusiastic about, the tiny Mustard-family plant called Draba verna (also known as Whitlow Grass). And, as he promised, I found it "in abundance."  Hundreds -- nay thousands! -- of this wee little weed were teeming in this otherwise desolate patch of sandy soil.  Invisible to cars speeding past, they were certainly easy to see when I knelt to seek them out.

A few lines later in Leopold's paean to Draba verna's unsung charms (you can read his entire tribute here), he refers to the plant's leaves as wearing "a sensible wooly coat."  I plucked up a single specimen from the tangled mass of plants, the better to observe the pretty little rosette of leaves and their definitely wooly texture.

While bending close to photograph the Draba, I chanced to spy a second little weed with tiny white flowers, this one snuggled up against the wall instead of being scattered across the dirt.  Lest these flowers be mistaken for Draba, note that they have five petals, instead of the four deeply-notched petals that Draba has, and they also possess many stem leaves, instead of the basal rosette of the Draba plant.  These equally small and equally early-blooming flowers are yet another non-native inhabitant of what are called "waste places," the Mouse Ear Chickweed (Cerastium fontanum ssp. vulgare).

To more closely observe the chickweed's flower, I plucked a single bloom.  Now I could see the deep notches in each of the five petals, as well as the downy hairs on the leaves that suggested the common name of Mouse Ear.

And look what else I found here today!  This beautiful yellow sunburst of a Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)!  This made it a trio of wonderful "weeds,"  all thriving here in what looked at first glance to be nothing but barren land.   And signaling (despite a big drop in temperature today) that Spring is here to stay!

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