Saturday, April 16, 2011

Some more plants of spring

I found a bit of time to stop in at a Jackson County woodland the other day, and take a few photos of early spring wildflowers. The vernal season is, without doubt, the most ephemeral. Many spring wildflowers last but a day or so, and in general the flowering periods for spring species is greatly compressed and flies by with great rapidity. Get out there now. A fiddlehead of a Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, unfurls. When young ferns are at this stage, it's no mystery why they are called fiddleheads. By today, it's probably mostly expanded into the broad green blade that is such a familiar sight in Ohio woodlands.

This plant is living proof that one should take time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. It's a spring-beauty, Claytonia virginica, one of our most abundant and widespread wildflowers of spring. It's easy to get jaded by such common tripe, and fail to pay them the heed that they deserve.

Tiny, impossibly delicate falcate orangetip butterflies certainly don't ignore spring-beauties. This plant is an important source of nectar for early spring insects.

It's easy to see the relationship to Dutchman's-breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, in this plant, which is yellow harlequin, Corydalis flavula. Both are among the five native species in the fumitory family (Fumariaceae) found in Ohio.

Another super-abundant spring wildflower is rue-anemone, Anemonella thalictroides. It is a member of the large, diverse buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).

We've got about 30 species of violets in Ohio, and a Viola simpletonian might just lump them into three types: purple, yellow, and white. That'd be doing a disservice to these little charmers of spring, which for the most part aren't difficult to sort out. This one is a personal favorite and one of the easiest to ID - long-spurred violet, Viola rostrata. Its distinctive hue of pale lavender allows roadside identification at freeway speeds.

Tiny clusters of white flowers arise from a thick tuft of basal rosette leaves, held aloft on naked stalks in early saxifrage, Saxifraga virginiensis. Look for this one on barren rocky ledges or steep banks of open rocky soil in partial sun.

An avalanche of our official state wildflower, the large-flowered trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, cascades down a steep wooded slope. Deer candy, trillium often occurs in the greatest densities on sites that are not readily accessible to browsing ungulates.

A trip is in the offing for tomorrow, and I hope to see many unusual things. And hopefully capture some of them with my camera.

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