Saturday, April 28, 2018

Wildflower Update from the Skidmore Woods

The warmth and rain the past few days have inspired the waiting wildflowers to finally burst from the earth and open their blooms at last.  My walk through the Skidmore woods today was interrupted again and again as I dropped to my knees to greet the flowers I'd been waiting all winter to see.

The first one I sought out was the small and fragrant English Violet, the snow-white variety (Viola odorata Alba) I always find in the same spot along the wooded path. I found not even a bud three days ago, but today the blue-spurred but otherwise pure-white blooms were open wide.

This is not one of our native violets, but who could disdain this lovely little super-fragrant flower?They were probably planted many decades ago by the Victorian ladies who liked to carry nosegays of these exquisitely scented blooms.  For years, I was baffled by these violets, since unlike any other of our violets, native or introduced, these had no dark-purple veining on their petals.  Finally, I was informed of their species by a violet expert, who indicated that the hooked style in the throat of the bloom was a diagnostic feature. I think you can make out that pale-green style in this closer look at a single bloom.

This next violet, one of our native species called the Long-spurred Violet (Viola rostrata), was truly a surprise today, since ordinarily I don't see this species until some time after the English Violets have faded.  Well, this was the only specimen I found.  There were no others at the sites where I usually find them, but I know I can look forward to finding more of these pretty flowers in the weeks to come. The long spur is an obvious distinguishing feature, but so is the darker purple color around the throat, as if the petals had drained their color to the center.

My friend Ed had told me that he found a single clump of Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis) in the Skidmore woods, and he told me exactly where to look for it.  And sure enough, there it was, just where he said it would be! But gosh, this sure looks like Dutchman's Breeches, too.  Aside from knowing that Squirrel Corn prefers a limey soil, like that which underlies the Skidmore woods, how could I tell these plants apart when they're not in bloom?  Their leaves and even their flower buds look quite similar.

I carefully extracted the roots of a single stem from this cluster, and there I found the determining feature: the yellow corms that inspired the common name of this plant.  The corms of Dutchman's Breeches are not yellow, but red.  I then replanted this stem right back from where I uprooted it.  I imagine the flower buds will open sometime in the next week, which I'm sure will confirm this plant's identity, too.

I really did not expect to see Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) blooming today, since earlier this past week I had seen hardly any of this wildflower's speckled leaves.  But see their flowers today I did, and quite a few of them, too, displaying the deep-red anthers that protrude below the dangling yellow blooms.

Uh oh!  I'm afraid those plump red anthers will shortly become wrinkled black threads, once this Red-necked False Blister Beetle and its many friends have finished feasting on Trout Lily pollen.  I'm glad I got here in time to see these lovely flowers while they were still pristine.

Here's a plant that's so eager to bloom, it's producing its yellow, pollen-laden anthers even before its dark-purple leaves or flowers have opened wide.  This is one of the traits that distinguishes this species of Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum giganteum) from the related species of Blue Cohosh (C. thalictroides) that blooms a bit later with yellower flowers that don't open until after its leaves unfurl.

I was SO happy to find this Leatherwood shrub (Dirca palustris) dangling abundant numbers of yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers!  The deer really love to eat this plant, and sometimes they browse the shrubs almost down to the ground.  Thankfully, they spared this one.

I know I reported seeing Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) twice already this past week, but wow!  What a show these masses of pristine white blooms with their sun-yellow centers put on!  I am always so happy to see them again, especially since they bloom for such a short time.  I didn't find them in many places throughout the Skidmore woods, but wherever they found their happy place, they certainly thrived.

I'm also aware that I have reported several prior sightings of Sharp-lobed Hepaticas (Anemone acutiloba) this week, but again, I just can't get enough of these luminous flowers, especially vividly colored ones like these, that seemed to glow from the deep shadowed places in the forest.

Here's a plant whose new leaves are actually more handsome than its rather scraggly greenish-yellow flowers that bloom in June. I just love the swirling curvaceous pleating of False Hellebore leaves (Veratrum viride) as they open their tightly furled shoots in the swampy spots of the Skidmore woods.


Uta said...

How lovely all these wildflowers are. Why do most people not pay attention to them?

Woody Meristem said...

Beautiful photos of beautiful flowers -- spring has arrived!

Anonymous said...

In the first paragraph, you said you drop to your knees,
how is your knee doing?

Ron Gamble said...

Nice post! Thanks for the info on the English violet, I saw a few last weekend too, that by process of elimination, "what else could it be" I figured had to be English violet. I can't smell them - my "smeller" is not very good. I'll be back there in a couple weeks and will look for the hooked style you mentioned.

Also, I saw an area that had literally thousands of Sharp-lobed Hepatica blooming, making the north-aspect hillside look like it had snowed. Never seen anything like it!

Alana said...

I really enjoy this and the post before about early spring wildflowers. They are my favorite, and now for me in South Ohio they are finished. It is nice still to see them.