Friday, April 17, 2020

These Buds Are For You! (And a few flowers, too)

Down into the 20s last night. Snow predicted tonight.  Sigh!  Well, since Winter's decided to hang around a bit longer, I guess our flood of spring wildflowers will reduce to a trickle for awhile.  How about a little quiz to amuse us while we wait?  I found all these buds while walking the Zim Smith trail at Shenantaha Park near Ballston Lake this week.  Guess what plants these buds belong to, and I will come back in a day or two to ID them here.

No other of our native trees has buds as chrome-yellow as this.  Also if you pinch them, they smell like shoe polish (if you're of an age to remember what that smells like!).

Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis)

I knew of a gardener who once cut this shrub species down because he thought its leaves were Poison Ivy.  He should have waited until he could see its distinctive inflated seed pods.

American Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia)

I tested one of this shrub's common names by chewing on a twig.  Luckily, my mouth turned numb for only about an hour. One of only two citrus shrubs that grow this far north. Larval food for the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly.

Northern Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)  Also called Toothache Tree.

Before this bud opened into this graceful fleur-de-lis shape, it resembled the head of a stork.

Sweet Viburnum, also called Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

I love the kitten-soft fur that warms the buds of one of our earliest-flowering trees.

Shadblow (Amelanchier sp.)

Some people call this a "weed tree." But the birds love to eat the seeds that hang from its boughs all winter long, and squirrels nip its bark in spring to lap up its sweet sap. These are the male flowers before they elongate to sway in the breeze and waft their pollen.  The female flowers grow on separate trees.

Box Elder (Acer negundo), the male flower buds.

It won't be long before those pinkish buds open to reveal the white four-parted flowers so typical of many plants of the Mustard Family.

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

The purple-tinged buds of this berry bush are even prettier than the rather scraggly, off-white flower clusters that will bloom later in the spring.

Red-berried Elder (Sambucus racemosa)

While walking that Zim Smith bike trail, I could look down into a deep ravine where the Ballston Creek rushed along between steep shale cliffs.  I recalled that many spring wildflowers came into bloom down there well before any other place I knew, so I clambered down this very steep bank to see what I could see.

LOTS of spring wildflowers is what I saw!  These Bloodroots (Sanguinaria canadensis) had wrapped their leaves about their shoulders against the chilly wind.

In uncountable numbers, Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) decorated the creek's floodplain with clumps of lacy leaves and inflated-pantaloon blossoms.

I found one single Long-spurred Violet (Viola rostrata) here along the creek, and none others anywhere else I walked today.

I swear this ravine is the Enchanted Valley of the Early Bloomers.  Everywhere else I have looked this week, Red Trilliums (Trillium erectum) are barely out of the ground, let along sporting such remarkably red flowers.

Two days before, I had searched for just the slightest trace of Early Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum giganteum) at another site, and here they were, already in full pollen-offering bloom and unfurling leaves.

I HAD found a few Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) earlier this week at other sites, but only solitary outliers, struggling to open a single blossom.  But here was a group of four, in full vigorous flower.

 And there were other flowers, too -- Wild Ginger, Toothwort, American Fly Honeysuckle, Early Meadow Rue, more -- that were just on the cusp of blooming. What IS it about this valley that the spring flowers seem to just love?  Is the soil enriched by minerals leeching from the shale? Is a cold-tempering mini-climate produced by a canyon-like depth to the ravine?  Do spring floods along the creek wash the snow away extra early?  Whatever it is that makes this valley so remarkable, I am enormously grateful that I and some other wildflower-enthusiast friends have come to know about it.

UPDATE:  Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!   One of this blog's readers, Sara Rall, has named all these buds correctly.  Click on the "Comments" to read her answers. 


Uta Z. said...

You are such a wonderful teacher. I enjoy your nature walks, even now that I moved to Tennessee. I have not ventured out into the woods here yet.

Sara Rall said...

No quiz answers? Yikes! bitternut hickory, bladdernut, prickly ash, a Viburnum (nannyberry?), shadbush, box elder, cut-leaved toothwort.? Very fun.

We have a similar valley near me, way more flowers, closer together, and earlier than anywhere else around, and I have no idea why.

Sara Rall said...

Thank you! But do you know which Viburnum species? It's bugging me...

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Uta Z., I sure do appreciate your comment. I myself have had so many fine teachers, I try to pass their legacy along by sharing what they have taught me or encouraged me to learn on my own. Better get out there into those Tennessee woods. I have heard that springtime in the Appalachians is something to behold.

Sara Rall, the Viburnum is V. lentago, also known as Sweet Viburnum or Nannyberry. I think it's the only viburnum with buds that look like a stork's head and bill before it opens. It contains both leaves and a flower cluster.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Note to my readers: I added the Red-berried Elder photo after I first posted this blog entry. I had occasion to look at my photo of it again and wondered why I didn't include it in the first place. I found it in the same place and on the same day as the others I did include.

The Furry Gnome said...

Sorry, I can't do the shrubs, but those spring wildflowers are exactly the ones I would look for! Beautiful!

Woody Meristem said...

Nice portraits of the buds. Ah spring!