Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A wildflower montage

Last Saturday, I made an extended foray into the depths of Adams County in southernmost Ohio. My primary mission: wildflowers. As the days become longer, the increasing sunlight gradually warms the woodland soil until a critical mass is reached. When the humus reaches a suitable temperature, the woodland wildflowers begin their eruption. For many, me possibly included, the explosion of a staggering diversity of spring wildflowers marks one of the great passages of the seasons. It is a spectacle not to be missed.

Spring has indisputably sprung early this year, and I was astonished by the numbers and variety of plants that were already in full bloom. Following are some of the botanical objets de' art.

A woody harbinger of spring, the pale lemony blossoms of spicebush, Lindera benzoin, were out in profusion. Later, after leafout, beautiful spicebush swallowtail butterflies will deposit tiny jeweled eggs on their namesake plant's' foliage, which in  turn will hatch curious snakelike caterpillars.

Cut-leaved toothwort, Cardamine concatenata, one of many vernal mustards. As with the others in its Brassicaceous tribe, the flowers have four petals.

Another mustard of spring is the delicate little purple cress, Cardamine douglassii. Its flowers are tinged with an oh so subtle hue of lavender.

They don't come much more fragile and ephemeral than this, the yellow harlequin, Corydalis flavula. It's blue-green dissected foliage may remind you of its close ally, the Dutchman's-breeches.

A stunning spike of dwarf larkspur, Delphinium tricorne, beautifies an old stump. Larkspurs are members of the buttercup family, and like many of their kind are quite poisonous.

Perhaps taking the award for elfin beauty is the impossibly tiny harbinger-of-spring, Erigenia bulbosa. A big one towers only a few inches skyward, and they sometimes barely manage to squeak past the litter of leaves on the forest floor. This one is a member of the parsley family, as you may have guessed by the foliage.

Lilies are perennial crowd-pleasers and white trout lily, Erythronium albidum, is no exception. Their pale ghostly blossoms are true works of art by any measure.

A botanical extrovert, the glaring showy face of one of our few native poppies, bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, beams forth. It almost seems a shame that these exquisite flowers last but a day.

A small bloodroot colony, their naked stems enwrapped by the poncho-like leaves. Later, the leaves will expand, and persist throughout summer.

Caught in the act of unfolding, one of the first wood poppies, Stylophorum diphyllum, of spring nestles in a bed of poppy foliage. Later, perhaps even by the time you read this, the hillside where I made this photo will have exploded into a sea of luminescent orange-yellow poppy flowers, stopping passersby dead in their tracks.

One of our most abundant spring wildflowers is yet another in the buttercup tribe, rue-anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides. Most flowers are stark white; others are a majestic shade of pinkish-purple.


Sharkbytes said...

Beautiful. Wildflowers in Ohio are amazing in the spring. Not that they are shabby here, but I think you have more variety.

Heather said...

Nice photos, Jim. I am so enjoying all the flowers coming up right now, and just the other day came across anemone and corydalis for the first time this season along our road. I must get out with my camera this weekend!

zippiknits said...

My grandparent's farm in Columbiana had a meadow and wood lot, and the most beautiful wildflowers from the wort family and a few others grew there,along a stream that was no more than a few inches deep. Also there were wild celery and onions. We always made marvelous looking mudpies, in season.