Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Fever - Sending a bouquet your way:>)


There is a "natural" remedy

Hurray!  Here in Green Lane, Pennsylvania, USA, there are big patches of ground showing amid the snow mounds in the woods, and in spite of the cold weather, the angle of the sun and the warmth of it's rays say "SPRING":>)  Soon there will be hints of green and even some wildflowers.

Today you're going to see some of the wildflowers that appear in early Spring in Green Lane.  Once you begin to notice what's going on in your world, you will also see and feel the cycle of the seasons.  It's amazing; everything has a time and place.

Many of these wildflowers are called "ephemeral" (existing for only a brief time) because they come up, bloom, make their food supply for next year, then disappear.  Once the leaves die there is no finding them.  

The Hepatica plants are visible almost all year, however, as are Waterlilies and, of course, the trees.  Ferns, depending on type, may even be green throughout the winter.

I'll try to inform you of the environment each plant or animal prefers - these plants shown below are all found in the woods or on the margins of the hardwood forests that grow in Green Lane.  the forest floor is rich and loamy with a decent amount of moisture and, in springtime, have dappled sunshine throughout the day.

These wonderful wildflowers come up wrapped in a leaf.  They open up in the morning and close at night as if they need to sleep.  Little hover flies, and other early insects come to the flowers for a snack.  These plants have an orange sap that, as kids, we used to write on our skin.  Some people have an allergic reaction to the sap, so I don't recommend trying it on your skin, but it was used by native people as a dye.

You'll find plants singly or in small colonies.  Bloodroot likes the forest soil - light, rich, and fairly moist - and dappled sunshine.  As members of the poppy family, Bloodroot is short-lived and the petals fall after just a few days.

Dogwood trees grow wild in Green Lane.  The springtime woods are filled with beautiful, white blossoms and usually have a flowering time that coincides with the Redbud trees - lovely!  There are cultivars (hybrids created by us humans) people can purchase that have a pink, even almost red flower.  I prefer the traditional white but enjoy the others.

A branch of Dogwood Flowers
The flowers of the Redbud tree are small and bloom right next to the branches.  You can imagine how beautiful the woods appear with white dogwood flowers and these redbud blossoms throughout.  It's interesting to note that the flowers are pollinated only by long-tongued insects like Carpenter Bees; insects with short tongues apparently can't reach far enough inside the flower.  

Hepatica is one of the very first wildflowers to appear.  Although there may be leaves left from last year, new leaves don't come until later - all you usually see are these delicate flowers reaching up to the springtime sun.  Color is variable and the flowers may be almost white and range to almost purple.  This mid-range blue/purple is common.  They are named Hepatica because the leaves are three-lobed and often a deep red/brown, like liver.

The Mayapple flowers grow under a heavy canopy of large, dark green leaves that look like umbrellas.  You can miss them if you don't make an effort to look because they grow in patches.  These are truly lovely blossoms - white, thick, waxy, sprouting from leaf and stem axils.  It is also called the Umbrella Plant because of the large, deeply cut leaves.  

When we get to the warmer side of spring, gentle rains and rich earth bring on the ferns.  This is a new frond (leaf) being born.  Ferns are plants that prefer mostly shade and like moist soil.  They are perfectly created to live on the edges of streams, ditches, and ponds, and they like open woods, too.
The weather is still cold in April but the ice is usually off the lakes and ponds.  The waterlilies begin to grow pretty early in spring, and the lily pads come up showing their true colors.  As plants begin to produce their food, the green chlorophyl stored in the leaves hides the colors.  When autumn arrives and the food (chlorophyl) is gone, the colors re-emerge and the leaves die.  We all know what a waterlily looks like.  They begin blooming in early summer or late spring.

Perfoliate Bellwort, Merry Bells These lovely, little wildflowers are hard to spot because of their greenish yellow color and the way they hang downward; the yellow/green color of the flower allows them to blend in with other green plants.  Again, you need to be looking for it.  They are denizens of forest edges and bloom before the leaves are out on the trees.

Pussytoes:>)  I love this name!  The fuzzy, white flowers look like little kitten toes.  These wildflowers like full sun, good moisture, and seem to thrive in lawns.  There are two types.

Spicebush, a shrub or small tree that flowers in early spring.  They are also called wild forsythia because of the yellow color and blooming time.  Later on in the year, when the leaves appear, Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly larvae will make a feast of this shrub.  The seeds are eaten by wildlife.  In the springtime, however, we can enjoy the flowers as do a few intrepid insects.  If you find a Spicebush when the leaves are out, take a leaf and crush it; the scent is marvelous.

Trout Lilies are known for their mottled foliage and lovely, yellow flowers.  These plants grow in colonies and, to thrive, they must be left alone to bloom and multiply.  They need a few years on them before flowering.  Some colonies are over a hundred years old, but human incursion is a problem.  We eat up the open woods in our avid, never-ending search for land to build upon.  This picture is from a colony many, many years old.  It grows in a patch of woods between a house and a field, and I just keep my fingers crossed and hope no one eyes the space for a house.

Virginia Bluebells are lovers of stream sides and very moist locations.  They will bloom in huge patches of this gorgeous blue.  The flowers begin as pink buds, open to a stunning, medium blue, then fade to almost white as they age.  The plants bend gracefully under the weight of the flowers, and when a bee lands on them, the stems can lean almost to the ground.

Virginia Bluebells are, in my humble opinion, breath-taking in their gentle beauty.
Rue Anemone wildflowers are, again, lovers of dappled sunshine and rich woods.  They are tiny plants, delicate and somewhat variable in color.  Ours go from pure white to softly pink. Although small and spaced apart, they grow in good numbers and make a pretty show.  Note the shape of the leaves - kind of like medium green mittens - because the next plant is very similar but the leaves will help you know what you are looking at.

Wood Anemone plants are much harder to find than Rue Anemone; I only know of two places where they grow and am very circumspect about who I tell.  Although the flowers are different, it isn't easy to tell which anemone you've found. Look at the leaves.  These are a darker green with a red tinge, deeply cut.  These plants are found in rich, moist woods growing in partial shade.

I hope this ushers you into your weekend with a smile.  Spring is trying to arrive, and we will soon have a great time in the woods!  Boy have I got pictures:>)