After three sub-freezing days with roaring winds, the thermometer inched back up into the 40s today and the winds grew quiet, which tempted me back outside. I figured the cold would have halted Spring's progress, so I decided to head to the trails in the nearby Skidmore woods just to stretch my legs and get some aerobic exercise. I doubted any new floral discoveries would find me down on my knees instead of striding along.
But the leaves of wintered-over Hepatica (both Round-lobed and Sharp-lobed) are still so beautifully colorful, I couldn't miss spotting them on the otherwise brown forest floor, so of course I paused to admire them.
And then I did have to get down on my knees to peer into the heart of those leaf clusters, brushing aside the sheltering oak and maple leaves to see if any flower buds had progressed from the furry nubbins they'd been last week. And look! I found one plant where the bud covers were pulling back to reveal the pink flowers very soon to open. Hurray! Just a warmer day or two, and we will be seeing some of the prettiest of our native spring wildflowers.
This discovery reminded me to check on some other early-blooming flowers with furry buds, those of the shrub called Leatherwood (Dirca palustris). Thankfully, these shrubs grow quite a distance away from where I found the Hepatica, so I did accomplish a bit of a brisk hike to find them. Thankfully, I found much less deer damage to the shrubs than I've found in the past few years. So I didn't have to search very long to find branches with budding twigs.