Skip to main content

The Goldenstar Erupts

I had an awesome day in the field today. Just myself and my camera, which doesn't seem to happen much anymore. After seeing the state of progress with the endangered Goldenstar lily, Erythronium rostratum, last Wednesday, I figured today would be the day. It was. So down to Scioto County I went, and birded and botanized vast areas of western Scioto and eastern Adams counties. Saw lots of interesting things, and made 419 photographs. Of those, I kept 157, which is pretty respectable for me. Although I'll probably end up dumping some more, but there are certainly some keepers in the lot.

One of the true signs of spring is when the fields become misted with purple, like this one in Adams County. These purple pastures are the work of Purple Dead-nettle, Lamium purpureum, a non-native Eurasian weed in the mint family. It is quite ubiquitous, and I'm sure you've seen it. It is at its showiest when vast quantities cloak the fallow spring fields.

Like most mints, even weedy non-native ones, Purple Dead-nettle is quite striking upon close inspection. The lavendar flowers are richly streaked with dark purple nectar guides, which function as "see me" flares for potential pollinating insects.

In due course I arrived at a richly wooded hillside that I knew to be carpeted with Goldenstar. An early bird, I was there around 8:30 am, and this is what ALL the plants looked like then. No matter, I still knew this would be THE DAY. Like some people, Goldenstars don't like to wake up early. So off I went for the next five hours, checking in on numerous other rare and endangered plants. They'll have to be the focus of other blogs, though.

The earliest native woodland flora is progressing quite nicely. This is a carpet of Ramps, Allium tricoccum. Like a botanical river, it seems to flow through this wooded gorge. An onion, Ramps have a powerful, pungent aroma when crushed and even the most neophyte botanist would know he is in the presence of some onion-like matter when walking through a scene like this.

Many species of mustards are early spring bloomers, and this native woodland species is amongst the showiest. It is Purple Cress, Cardamine douglassii. Named for its discoverer, David Bates Douglass (1790-1849), this gorgeous plant was only discovered less than two hundred years ago. It must have been something to explore landscapes where species like this flourished, and had yet to be named. Douglas is interesting in that he was primarily a military man and an engineer, although he was also smitten with the natural sciences.

The abundant and widespread Rue-anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides. It is just starting to do its thing; before long it'll be flowering prolifically.

One of our showiest wildflowers of all. This one is a bit like a cardinal in that it is absolutely stunning, but so common that most people ignore it. Spring-beauties, Claytonia virginica, were perhaps the most commonly encountered blooming wildflower today.

I stumbled into a vigorous colony of White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum. It is the first of our three trout lilies to bloom, and this population, which included hundreds of plants, had already mostly passed into fruit. Plenty of the large, showy blooms remained, though. This species prefers higher, drier slopes than do the others.

Well, it was time to get back to the Goldenstar site and see what was happening. I was rather hoping for strong sunshine on this day, but that didn't happen - it remained cloudy and the temperature perhaps reached 60. Nonetheless, I had my hopes for Goldenstars.

Bingo! I wasn't even out of the car and could see that Goldenstars had erupted into bloom all over the hillside. Unlike the much more common and widespread Yellow Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum, this rarity doesn't have strongly recurved tepals (petals, essentially). Instead, the flowers form a flat plane with tepals extended directly outwards. Quite a striking plant, and seeing hundreds of them blooming siimultaneously ranks high among Ohio's greatest botanical spectacles. Got to be on your game to see this, though - I suspect by Monday, all will have bloomed and will already be in fruit.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my friend Jim Mundy, a wildlife photographer from Cincinnati, on the scene when I arrived. Visit Jim's website here, and see some examples of his excellent work. Between Jim and I, we must have taken many dozens of photos of the Goldenstar.

It was amazing to literally see the Goldenstars unfurling into flower around us. Plants that were scarcely open when I arrived were like the ones above when I left. In maybe half an hour, they go from being virtually in bud to glowing, showy yellow flowers. In a way, the Goldenstars epitomize spring, with its mad frenzy of life, all rushed to reproduce itself.


Jana said…
Thanks for the virtual walk in the woods. I have a new appreciation for purple dead nettle.
Catbird said…
Wow! Jim it looks like you had a fantastic day! Sorry I missed it.
Rhonda said…
The Goldenstar is stunning! Thanks for sharing it.

Your post also helped me correctly identify Rue-anemone. I had taken a picture of some but had incorrectly identified it as Wood anemone.
B said…
Thanks for the pictures and discussion of Goldenstar, I didn't even know it existed until I found your page. (Darn inadequate field guides)
Joe McCollister said…
The Golden Star Lilly is found on the farm that my grandma grew up on as well as my dad. I spent nearly every summer there as a kid and I remember my grandma Eva Honaker telling me about the rare lily found only on this farm.
How cool.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…