Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Early Spring flowers

My latest walk through Shannondale Spring WMA was up a trail I don’t normally take. At the trail head there are lots of deer carcass, tires and discarded car parts and appliances in various stages of decay. It is unsightly to say the least but on up the trail things are different. I like to take it every now and then because the trail is narrow so branches with insects and other interesting things are close at hand. Last Sunday was a good day for emerging spring ephemerals.

As I drove into the parking lot I spotted Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) a member of the Poppy family, Papaveraceae. I bet you wonder why I always try to use the scientific names. Well it is because if I use them often enough I will learn them and hopefully you will also. It is really helpful when googleing for more information and in some cases the scientific name gives insight into the plants. There are other good reasons but those two are the main ones for me.

Anyway back to the Bloodroot. They are crisp little flowers, like a tulip is crisp. Nothing droopy about them, they are proud and strong. I love the way the leaves curl around the stem when they are first opening up. I saw lots of these scattered along my walk but never a large clusters, maybe a small family but mostly individual plants. I’m not sure if that is their habit everywhere but it is in Shannondale. So at almost every turn I would see another one.

The next little gem I found was a Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) in the Purslane family Potruculacaceae. I was very surprised because I think it is a bit early for this one. I only found one surrounded by the leaves of more to come. Perhaps this one was the official Claytonia virginica scout to make sure the weather was good before the rest popped up. You know, sometimes I wonder why “virginica” is found in so many scientific names. I just wish once in a while I would see “west virginica” as part of the name. One interesting thing is if it had been a cloudy day I would not have seen this one flower because they close up at night as well as on those dreary days when we like to stay in bed. This one didn’t have as much pink as most of them do but it was still a spring beauty. Oh yes, I read the flowers are good to eat in salads but who would want to pick them? Not me. I agree with Euell Gibbons, “the pale-rose flowers in early spring are food for the soul.”

Along the steep sides of the trail were lots of Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) from the Funitory family (Fumariaceae). They are native perennials so why are they not called Dutch-American’s Breeches? I love the way the leaves repel the drops of water. They should market that coating the leaves have on them and put it on windshields. These looked like they were breeches for little boys but I’m sure they will expand to full man size before the spring is over.

Here is a mature Dicentra cucullaria flower I photographed a few years back.

It takes long-tongued bees and insects to pollinate these flowers. Ants love to carry off the seeds because they eat the fleshy oily appendages on the seeds called elaisomes. Here I am going to copy directly from Wikipedia because they say it so well and it is so interesting: “Elaiosomes (elaios- oil, some- body) are fleshy structures that are attached to the seeds of many plant species. The elaiosome is rich in lipids and and proteins, and may be variously shaped. Many plants have elaiosomes to attract ants, which take the seed to their nest and feed the elaiosome to their larvae. After the larvae have consumed the elaiosome, the ants take the seed to their waste disposal area, which is rich in nutrients from the ant frass and dead bodies, where the seeds germinate. This type of seed dispersal is termed myrmecochory from the Greek "ant" (myrmex) and "dispersal" (kore). This type of symbiotic relationship appears to be mutualistic, as the plant benefits because its seeds are dispersed to favorable germination sites, and also because it is planted (carried underground) by the ants. Elaiosomes are an example of convergent evolution, having evolved many times in thousands of different plant species.” Cool uh, and you thought they were just pretty little things.

At the top of the hill I passed the old barn reminding me that this was once farm land. I don’t know why it is but old barns always look so picturesque.

After taking this photo of the barn I realized I was surrounded by Veronica agrestis or Green Field-speedwell, a plant belonging to the family Plantaginaceae. They are very tiny and easliy overlooked. It is one of the few blue flowers I see.

Speeking of blue, descending the hill and walking along the river I came across a a Spring Azure Butterfly. I also spotted an Angle Wing butterfly, either a comma or a question mark. It wouldn’t let me get close enought to take a photo or identify. Both first of the season for me. Here is the Spring Azure.

The rivers edge was very muddy and a lot of the top soil had run off due to the deep snow and heavy rain runoff we recently had. I hope it doesn’t affect the spring flowers along here. I did see some Virginia Bluebells coming up.

Harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa) a menber of the carrot family, Apiaceae, was in bloom along even in the silt runoff by the rivers edge.

Next weekend I will be out looking for more spring surprises.

See more at Outdoor Wednesday.


Woodswalker said...

Ooh, your photos are spectacular! I especially love the Dutchmen's Breeches, how your shot captures their shimmer and sparkle. And thanks for pointing out the tiny Speedwell -- one of my favorite "weeds" that most people never see because it is so tiny and hidden in the grass.

I'm amazed how much the blossoms of Harbinger-of- Spring resemble Early Saxifrage, except for the color of its anthers and the shape of its leaves. I've never seen Harbinger in Saratoga County because I believe we are out of its range.

squirrel said...

Woodswalker, Thanks ;-)