Friday, April 14, 2017

The Floral Fest Has Begun!

No stopping Spring now!  The floral floodgates have opened!  After weeks of searching and searching for even the tiniest sign of spring, a few days of warmth and rain and sun have spurred new growth everywhere I look.  With family soon arriving for the Easter weekend, I had just a few moments yesterday to run out for a quick circuit of the trails at Skidmore woods, and flowers were popping up here, there, and everywhere!

Those hepatica buds I found tightly furled just a few days ago?  Wide open now!  And in all of the lovely colors hepaticas come in.  I had barely stepped on the path from my car when I spied the first perfect little bouquet of them crowning a sun-warmed rock.

I love how many hepatica flowers seem to glow from within, as the color of each petal-like sepal pales to almost white toward the edge, creating a halo effect around each flower.  Just see how luminous these blooms appear, especially when arrayed against the background of their wintered-over dark leaves.

There are years I find only white hepatica flowers, or those tinged only slightly with other colors.  But on this day I found most of the lovely variety of colors hepatica can bloom in.  Here were some pretty pink ones.

There were others, in a soft lavender hue.

Of course, I found many in sparkling iridescent white.

And here was a tiny white one that was outlined in rosy pink.

This cluster of blooms was closer to blue than purple, and I love the mottled color of the plant's variegated leaves.  I noted that these leaves appeared rounder than the leaves of other hepaticas I found.  So this must be the Round-loved Hepatica (Anemone americana) instead of the Sharp-lobed species (Anemone acutiloba) that tends to dominate in Skidmore's lime-rich woods.

After finding so many hepaticas abundantly in bloom, I was encouraged to think that one of my favorite early violets might be blooming as well.  And so they were!  This is the white variety of the English Violet (Viola odorata var. alba), the very earliest of the violet species to bloom in Saratoga.  An introduced, rather than native species, I'm nevertheless delighted to find it here, since of all our violets, native or not, this is the most fragrant one of all.  Note the pure white petals of this violet, a feature that distinguishes this species from our native early white violets, which have dark purple veining on the lower petals.  The white variety of English Violet does have a purple spur, however, a bit of which can be seen on the left-hand flower in this photos.

The Skidmore campus is home to both varieties of English Violet, the pure white one shown above, and the deep purple one shown below.  Their populations are widely separated, making me wonder how they came to thrive here.  My guess is that they were planted long ago by the ladies who once lived in the Victorian mansions that used to stand where Skidmore College buildings do now.  Ladies of that era often carried little nosegays of these extremely fragrant flowers.  When I pick a tiny bouquet for myself, I can detect their delightful scent as soon as I enter the room where I have placed them.  In this photo, the hooked style that is one of the characteristics that distinguishes this species is plainly visible.

Here's another early bloomer I always find in the lime-rich Skidmore woods, the little yellow trumpets of Eastern Leatherwood (Dirca palustris).  Even though deer have been browsing many of the leatherwood shrubs that thrive here, new growth is providing us as many flowers as ever.

With all these other flowers blooming now, I hurried to where I know Blue Cohosh rises from the leaf litter, thinking it might be blooming already as well.  Well, there was no sign of its purple shoots, but the presence of this persistent blue seed, a remnant of last year's flowers,  reassured me that I was searching in the right spot.  I bet by this time next week, this early-blooming species of Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum giganteum) will be up and unfurling both leaves and flowers at once.

Well, it wasn't only flowers that delighted me on my walk through the Skidmore woods.  The elegant Mourning Cloak butterflies were wafting through the warm air and spreading their brown-velvet wings to the sun.  This butterfly winters over as an adult, emerging from its bark or leaf-litter  shelters on the very first warm days of spring.

The Eastern Garter Snakes were also active on this day.  I saw several slithering through the leaves, but this one impressed me the most by its convoluted posture as it held perfectly still, hoping I wouldn't notice it against the roots of that tree.  I did see it, of course, and I also noticed the speckled leaves of Trout Lily poking up from the dead brown tree leaves.  Oho!  Another lovely spring flower about to arise!


The Furry Gnome said...

We're just starting the best month of the year! Lots of colours among those Hepatica you found.

threecollie said...

It is impossible to resist the call of outdoors!

Anonymous said...

Will have to check Shenentowa Park trail soon.

Woody Meristem said...

Very nice portrayal of the various colors of hepatica blooms. Spring certainly has sprung.