Monday, March 29, 2021
The spring wildflower show commences
The greening forest above is part of a very special place known as the Ohio River Bluffs. It is one of many gems owned by the Arc of Appalachia. The preserve encompasses steep south-facing slopes overlooking the broad Ohio River. Hit hard by the sun's rays, this is one of the first places in Ohio that spring wildflowers rise from their long dirt nap.
Major eye candy at the Bluffs is acres and acres of Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica. Come next weekend or thereabouts, the bluebell show should be peak. That path is a good place to be, at that time.
Purple Cress, Cardamine douglassii, is one of the first spring wildflowers to bloom. The slopes were covered with them yesterday. The flowers are quite variable in color and arrangement. Some plants form open candelabras like this one, while others have a denser inflorescence. Color can range from nearly white to a deep violet.
Going prostrate for the bees brought me in closer proximity to numerous Red Velvet Mites in the genus Trombidium (I think). I've never seen so many on a single day. Maybe they have boom and bust years, and if so 2021 is decidedly a boom. I did not "pose" the mite - it was very busy inspecting Spring-beauty flowers which made for a particularly aesthetic backdrop.
A trio of Goldenstar, Erythronium rostratum, flowers in picture-perfect condition.
I capped the day with a stop at another Arc of Appalachia site, the Gladys Riley Goldenstar Lily Preserve in western Scioto County. One must be timely to catch the stunning Goldenstar in flower. It blooms en masse over maybe a period of a week. Arrive a day too late and nada - you're out of luck with another year to wait.
EVERY time I post a photo of this rarity, people tell me they have them on their property. No. They have the common and widespread Yellow Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum, which looks superficially similar. Goldenstar has a scattered and localized distribution, with Arkansas being the epicenter. Northern Kentucky and southern Ohio sites are far removed from the core range. Famed Cincinnati botanist Lucy Braun discovered this species along Rocky Fork Creek on the edge of Shawnee State Forest in 1964. While there are probably tens of thousands of plants along a few miles of the stream valley, that's it. Only fairly recently was another much smaller Ohio population discovered not far to the west in Adams County. These are the only known Ohio sites and the only populations north of the Ohio River.
If you can get to the Ohio River Bluffs next weekend or sometime the following week, you should be treated to a remarkable display of spring wildflowers.
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