Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Beautiful Day, Part I

The sun was out, the sky was blue, it was in the high-50s, low-60s...I had to walk the trails. I also wanted to see if anything new was in bloom and what else might be happenin' out there.

Painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) are still hanging in there. Click on the photo to zoom in on the center of the flower - it is almost like a Georgia O'Keefe painting!

When walking through the woods right now, you can't help but see goldthread (Coptis groenlandica) blooming. It's small white flowers and scalloped clover-like leaves stand out agains the forest floor. But, what you really want to do is get right down and stick your nose in the flower. Well, not quite, but take a handlens along with you and look at the blossom up close - isn't it one of the loveliest things (yet equally weird)?

Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla), a member of the mustard family, is really getting going now. Peter was telling us the other day how this plant is vital to the survival of a butterfly known as the mustard white. This butterfly's larvae eat nothing but this plant. Enter the invasive: garlic mustard (we yanked a bunch of this out along the trail last weekend). Garlic mustard, also in the mustard family, is from overseas, yet has made itself quite a home here. In fact, where it gets established, it takes over, big time, pushing out many native plants. Whole areas of forest, fields and back yards are now carpeted with this aggressive plant. And, while it is in the same family as toothwort, the mustard white's larvae cannot survive on it. Translation, this butterfly's future is starting to look grim.

Here's a close-up of the toothwort's flower.

I was crossing one of our bridges when my eye was caught by a blanket of blue/purple along the water's edge. I scrambled down to see what it could be. It turned out to be violets...but which ones?

The leaves are rahter long and pointy. Could they be marsh blue violets (V. cuculata)?

Newcomb's says that this species can be recognized by short, thick hairs on the inside of the side petals. It also says these hairs are swollen at the tip - viewable with a handlens. Hm. This photo is a bit washed out - I may have to go back out and try again - but it looks like it might be a match. Update: Thanks to my botany buddy Jackie, we have decided this is NOT a marsh blue violet. One possibility is that it could be LeConte's violet (V. affinis), which has a "conspicuous white throat", but that species also has tufts at the base of the lower petal. The other possibility is the common blue violet (V. papilionacea), which has long and slender hairs on the side petals. It also is spurred on the lower petal. I'll have to make antoher trip out there and look again.

The pink ladies slippers (Cypripedium acaule) have come a long way in just a week. I couldn't even see the leaves the last time I was out here, and now the buds are visible. Doesn't it look like it's about to open its mouth and say "Feed me, Seymore!"?

Yellow clintonia (Clintonia borealis), aka bluebead lily, should be flowering in another week or two. This is one of my favorites, possibly because I just really like the leaves.

This low-growing thing has had me quite stumped. The leaves are definitely "raspberry," but there are no prickers, and it seem awfully early for raspberries to be in blossom. But, I saw several just starting to open up their flowers, and I keyed them out several times, each time ending up on black raspberries (Ribes occidentails), or thimbleberries. Department of Corrections: Jackie to the rescue again! When I first saw this plant, what came to mind was dewberry (Rubus flagellaris), but I dismissed that. Well, on the bottom of that same page in Newcomb's is this plant: dwarf raspberry (Rubus pubescens). These two plants look a LOT alike, but the key to look for is the trailing stem. On dewberry it is prickly, while on dwarf raspberry it is smooth. I felt all along this thing for prickles while I was out there, and didn't find any, so I'm inclined to think Jackie is correct (of course!).

I found several indian cucumber roots (Medeola virginiana) with buds. Again, this seems rather early to me, but then, they aren't actually flowering yet. This one also had a beetle - it will be appearing again in Part II of this post.

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) was blooming all over. What a sweet spire of blossoms.

I also stumbled across a small patch of smooth yellow violets (Viola pensylvanica).

The FIND of the day, however, was dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolium). I almost didn't see it. At first I thought, well, those are funny-looking foamflowers. Then I looked more closely and said "that's not foamflower; is it ginseng?" Fortunately this time out I had my copy of Newcomb's with me, so I looked 'em up. Sure enough - ginseng it was!

I've had my eyes peeled for bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), but today was the first I've even seen the leaves. Two miles of walking and I only found two with even the remotest hint of flower buds - here's one of them. The sepals haven't turned white yet, so the whole plant is this shade of lime green. I'll give 'em another week or two before we start to see the flowers (and white sepals).

I was all convinced this was choke cherry (Prunus virginiana), but when I looked it up to be sure, the book said that choke cherry and black cherry look a lot alike. Now, I'm still pretty sure it's choke cherry, but I am going to have to go back out and take a good look at the bark, buds and leaves. The thing is, the leaves aren't really out yet. Still, I'm pretty sure that in the past I've identified this specific individual as choke cherry, so until I confirm otherwise, it will remain in my books P. virginiana.

I brought my walk to an end along The Frog Pond. Common winter cress (Barbarea vulgaris) is another non-native plant, also known as yellow rocket. It's found fairly commonly along roadsides and waste areas. The Frog Pond is right along what used to be the main road here, but is now slowly being taken back by the woods. This plant is growing out of cracks in what remains of the pavement.

The rest of my walk, which includes insects, herps and birds, I will post another day (gotta' spread the wealth, you know). So stay tuned...


  1. Beautiful! I'm so glad your wildflower season has started in earnest. By the way, I'm pretty sure your little raspberry is Dwarf Raspberry (makes sense!). Good luck with your violet ID. Violets are known to confound even the experts.

  2. You have such a wonderful bounty of wildflowers! I love that painted trillium. I've never seen one. Our woods don't seem to offer a great diversity in flowers. There's a lot of clubmoss. However, I did see bunchberry last year. I looked for it a few weeks ago and didn't find any. I'll have to try again.