Wednesday, April 24, 2019

It's Violet Time!

 Oh my gosh, did it RAIN this past week! Rivers and ponds are over their banks in several places around the county,  and the Snook Kill Falls was as full and tumultuous as I have ever seen it (see above photo).  I had stopped on the Wilton/Greenfield road to check on the falls while on my way to the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve on Parkhurst Road in Wilton, hoping that all this rain and several days of warm weather would have inspired our earliest violets to spring into bloom.  And as it turned out, I was not disappointed.

As I made my way down the trail that leads to the Little Snook Kill, which runs through the Orra Phelps Preserve, I noticed the Striped Maples were holding aloft their velvety pink-blushed buds.  I love how these buds catch the light and seem to glow with a pearly light of their own in the dimly shaded woods. And their luminous presence often signals the start of the violet season.

When I reached the bridge that crosses the creek, I searched the far bank for signs of our earliest violet to bloom around here, the lemon-yellow Round-leaved Violet (Viola rotundifolia).  And sure enough, there was one peeking out from the mossy bank! Can you see it, that little dot of bright yellow over there?

The creek was too full of rushing water for me to step across for a closer photo, but here's a photo from my files that shows the dark-purple veining of this pretty violet's lower lip.  This particular violet blooms even before its leaves completely unfold, but those leaves will continue to grow larger and persist well into the summer, long after the flowers have faded.

Encouraged by this find at Orra Phelps, I hurried back to Saratoga Springs to search the Skidmore woods for a second early blooming violet, the pure-white English Violet (Viola odorata).  And there it was, pushing aside the leaf litter to raise its pristine and deliciously fragrant blooms to the light.

As far as I know, this is our only white violet that shows no dark veining on its lower lip, but it does have a purple spur, which you can see in the lower flower on the right.  For years, I was completely stymied as to this flower's ID, for I found no similar violet in any of my wildflower guides. But one year a violet expert informed me that this -- as its common name implies -- was an introduced species, cultivated here in gardens as much for its exquisite fragrance as for its beauty. This expert also told me that this violet's hooked style was diagnostic for the species.

English Violets also bloom with deep-purple blooms, and I know of a patch this color that grows along a road on the opposite side of the Skidmore College campus.  So that's where I hurried to next.  Ah yes, there they were!  Such a beautiful violet!  And such a fragrant one!

Since these violets were growing wild along a roadside and are often abused by groundskeepers dumping lawn waste on them, I felt no guilt about picking a little nosegay of them to bring home.  Can you imagine?  Just a wee little bouquet this small has filled my kitchen with delightful fragrance!

And guess what?  When I stepped from my car, look what I found, already blooming next to the sidewalk.  This is our Common Blue Violet (V. sororia),  a gift from the native-flower gods so generous that many folks call it a weed.  Not me, though.  Instead, I call it a treasure.  And its season has just begun!

1 comment:

Woody Meristem said...

Here, woodland violets are only blooming in the warmest, sunniest places -- but it won't be long until they all burst forth.