Early Spring Wildflowers

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Filed under Outdoor Notes

April 6, 2012

The first wildflowers up in our woodlands are known as the spring ephemerals because they don’t last all that long. Their strategy is to to do it all–sprout, bloom, set seed, and store energy for next year–in that brief space of bright sunlight between when the warm spring sun heats the rich forest floor and the leaves on the tree close the canopy, casting the forest into shade for the remainder of the growing season.

Generally the first ephemeral to appear is Hepatica  (Hepatica nobilis), usually a flower of the deep woods.

Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis)

Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis)

Hepatica is followed closely by a personal favorite, Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens). Look for it on warm roadside banks.

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens). They are not always so pink.

Then comes Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), look close for the pink pinstripes on the petals.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

The second “flush” of wildflowers includes Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), a member of the Poppy family that likes moist–but not wet–conditions.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) is a member of the Mustard family (note the cross-shaped four-petaled flower).

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum), also known as Dog-tooth Violet, also prefers moist woods.

Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

Early Saxifrage (Saxifraga virginensis) blooms along road cuts and exposed banks.

Early Saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis)

Early Saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis)

Look close to the ground to find the flowers of the Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) under the heart-shaped leaf.

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

We have two look-alike members of the Buttercup family: Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) and False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum). The False Rue Anemone has five part flowers, while the Rue Anemone has up to ten. Additionally, the leaf of the False Rue Anemone looks somewhat like chervil or flatleaf parsley. The leaf of the Rue Anemone looks like some kind of weird green mitten.

Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)

Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)

False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum)

False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum)

Finally, there is Dutchmen’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), which often blooms in along the sides of our woods roads.

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

There will be more to come as the season progresses. Watch this space.

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