Thursday, April 12, 2018


At last!  The snow is ALL gone from most of the forest floor.  And the temps have been above freezing for several days in a row.  Time to go looking for Hepaticas (Anemone acutiloba and A. americana) in the Skidmore woods.  The  mottled green or red wintered-over leaves are easy to find where they rest atop mossy limestone rocks, the plants only partially hidden by fallen oak and beech and maple leaves.  I lifted the dry tree-leaves up to peer at the base of the plants, and here I found the first trace of the flowers, just a tiny bit of pink peeking out of its furry buds.

On another plant, these pale-purple sepals had made their way out a little bit further, and if it hadn't been dark and rainy today, this flower might well have been wide open.  Since it was so dark and rainy, I surmised that this was all I would find today, and I gave up my search.

Then suddenly there!  Right by the path.  A beautiful bunch of glossy green leaves exploding with pale lavender blooms.  Hepatica season has opened for sure!  Every day now, for the next two weeks or so, these beautiful flowers will adorn the forest floor with blooms that range from purest white through lilac and pink to deepest purple and -- rarely -- a vivid magenta.

So lovely!  I just can't help but feel blessed when Hepatica season begins.

I found two other treats in the woods today, although neither is a sign that spring has sprung, since both can be found in every season, including the dead of winter.  The first was a lush and lovely emerald-green patch of Atrichum moss, like a miniature forest of minuscule pine trees spreading across the ground.  I sometimes confuse this spiky moss with Polytrichum moss, so to confirm the identity, I pluck a few sprigs and hold them in my hand for a minute or so.  If they are Atrichum, the leaves will promptly shrivel, but only to just as promptly return to lush fullness if they are quickly rehydrated.  Here in my hand are the shriveled sprigs next to a freshly plucked one on the left.

The second find was a cluster of Split-gill Fungus (Schizophyllum commune) sprouting from a dead fallen tree limb.  A remarkable feature about this little white, shell-shaped fungus is that it can shrivel and dry up again and again, and then return to full reproductive power each time, once it becomes rehydrated.  These particular specimens appear to be rather dry, but that doesn't mean they can't spring back to vigor once again.

There are many other small white stalkless fungi we might find on dead limbs, but we only need to turn these over to see the distinguishing feature that gives the Split-gill fungus its name, the obviously split gills.


Pat Reed said...

From the few leaves I can see in your photos, that looks more like Hepatica americana, not H. acutiloba?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

You are quite right, Patrick Reed! Because of the limestone substrate of the Skidmore woods, most of the Hepaticas that grow there ARE the species acutiloba. But there are occasional plants of the americana species, too. I was so thrilled to see the flowers, I failed to notice the leaves! I will edit my post to reflect your correction.

Unknown said...

Your Hepatica photos are lovely! Do I see both species in the photo of the leaves?

Woody Meristem said...

Ah spring!!!!