Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Some spring flora

Last Saturday, a group of us got together to explore Adams County, one of Ohio's most floristically rich areas. This early spring pilgrimage is becoming a tradition; John Howard and I have led these small forays for two years now, and a mid-summer outing the year prior to those.

Most of the participants are active in a group called The Wild Ones, whose mission is to promote the conservation and use of native plants. A noble mission to be sure, and you can learn more about them here and here.

Like people have for many thousands of years, we were out to bask in the riches of early spring, and take note of the myriad proofs that winter's icy hand has finally thawed.

The group photo above was taken in an Adams County cedar glade prairie, one of our rarest habitats. And the little gem above is one of our rarer plants, the Wedge-leaved Whitlow-grass, Draba cuneifolia. It is largely confined to these postage stamp-sized prairies, and one might walk right by and never notice the tiny mustard. A big one might push three inches skyward.

From rare to abundant: an avalanche of Bluets, Houstonia caerulea, cascades down a sunny embankment.

Common though the Bluet may be, its charms are many and this plant is well worth a close look. The luminescent yellow corolla tube glows like a beacon, luring scores of early season insects to sip the nectar. Many small bees, flower flies, hover flies, and Falcate Orangetip butterflies were busily feeding from the flowers.

We made a planned short visit to Whipple State Nature Preserve, which stretched into a very lengthy visit. With good cause - Whipple is nearly unrivaled in its bonanza of spring wildflowers. A massive dolomite slump block, calved from the overhanging cliffs long ago, was covered with Miterwort, Mitella diphylla.

It isn't so much what one looks at, but how they look at it. It's be easy to glide right by Miterwort and see little else but spindly white spikes. A close look at this diminutive saxifrage reveals minute flowers that look all the world like snowflakes. It would probably take a few dozen of the tiny blooms to cover a quarter.

Rounding a bend, we were astonished to see an entire hillside painted yellow with Wood Poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum.

Truly a standout in woods filled with beautiful flowers, Wood Poppies are robust in every way. The lemony-orange petals are wispy and ephemeral; as if crafted from tissue.

The rush of spring is over in a second - get out while the getting is good.


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