Sunday, April 4, 2010

Some signs of spring

Today was a truly fine early spring day here in central Ohio, with perfectly blue skies and temperatures staying in the 60's/low 70's. A bunch of us met up at Bergamo Center in Dayton, site of this year's Midwest Native Plant Conference. If you are interested in plants, you'll not want to miss this one. Although the event isn't until the first weekend in August, registration is now open and I'd encourage you to sign up early.

There could be no better spot to hold such a conference than Bergamo, and we walked the grounds, scouting out the onsite field trips. We made some nice observations, and photos of a few of them follow.

A sea of Dutchman's-breeches, Dicentra cucullaria. This particular plant was nearly shrublike in its robustness. An old name for this common wildflower is "staggerweed". The roots in particular are rich in toxic isoquinoline alkaloids, and one sympton of poisoning is a staggering gait.

A line of Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, beautifies an aging log. This is one of only two native Ohio species in the Papaveraceae, or Poppy Family. Bloodroot flowers last but a day or so, their fragile petals soon shed. At flowering, the leaf enfolds the stem; soon after it opens, as the leaf at the bottom right is doing. Bloodroot has various medicinal uses, and the roots are full of a brilliant red dye, hence the common name.

We were pleased to encounter a wooded slope covered with Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla. The flowers of this species are every bit as ephemeral as those of Bloodroot, and if you aren't there on the few days that a population will have blooms, you'll miss this spectacle. Twinleaf belongs to the Berberidaceae, or Barberry Family, and the only other Ohio natives are Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides (and C. giganteum), and Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum.

The genus Jeffersonia commemorates our third president, Thomas Jefferson, who was a fine botanist and overall naturalist, and very inquisitive about the natural world.

Newly unfurled leaves illustrate the source of the common name, Twinleaf. These leaves are long-persistent, unlike the flowers, and are obvious throughout summer and into fall.

Not long after commenting on the emerging pinkish buds of Redbud, Cercis canadensis, we came across a small colony of Henry's Elfins, Callophrys henrici. Redbud is the host plant for this tiny butterfly, which is rather uncommon and local. We didn't know there were any at Bergamo, and were thrilled to see them. Henry's Elfin has but one short-lived brood in early spring, and one always finds them around Redbuds.

This Killdeer had appropriated a garden and had its cleverly concealed nest very nearby. She was giving us the old broken wing act, a ploy to lure potential threats away from the eggs. This species is far and away our most common nesting shorebird, and upon close inspection they are among the handsomest of the plovers. Note the brilliant red orbital ring, or eyering.

As you can see, the grounds of Bergamo are filled with diversity, and come August and the Midwest Native Plant Conference, there will be a completely new cast of flora and fauna.

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1 comment:

Russell Reynolds said...

Now ya got me hooked on wildflowers . Downloaded Audubons Wildflowers on my IPOD and hit the woods ,, Found dutchman's breeches, big leaf periwinkle and carolina spring beauty by my garden pond. My yard is full of wildflowers . I Hit the woods and have id' 13 wildflowers and have another 6 I need to figure out . Love your blog ,, so much information. I am learning Jim, now if I can retain it.