Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Tonic

I attended a class on edible wild plants where we learned how to search out spring greens in the fields and woodlands. We gathered dandelion leaves, wild onions, garlic mustard, clover and

even early cattail shoots.

The instructor brought in some ramps that we sautéed with the cattail shoots.

We made a salad of the dandelion and other greens and drank a spring tonic of sassafras root and a spicebush branch, a good hillbilly drink to purify the blood.

Afterwards, one of my friends and I drove over to Shannondale Springs WMA to look for spring ephemerals and we were greatly rewarded.  

First we found Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica). I have always wondered why some seem to be pinker than others.  

Star Chickweed (Stellaria pabera) has always been a favorite of mine.
We only found a couple of columbines.
However, trilliums were everywhere. Around here we call this variety by the common name Wake-Robin but the scientific name is Trillium erectum.  I love the way it is divided up into three parts.

Another abundant flower along the river was Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman’s breeches).

Nearby was Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis) in the same family, Papaveraceae. Below you can see how similar they look. Usually if it isn’t in flower the best way to tell the difference is to dig them up and look at the corms, which by the way are also edible. But as I was looking at the leaves I noticed that those of the Dutchman’s Breeches were just a little more delicate than the Squirrel Corn.

Virginia Blue Bells (Mertensia virginica) were in full bloom.  I think it must be a brave insect to venture deep into this bell.  They are more commonly pollinated by butterflies that can perch on the edge and unroll their long proboscis to sip the nectar inside.  I didn’t see many butterflies so perhaps it is also pollinated by moths.

This Grapevine Epimenis (Psychomorpha epimenis) moth might be a good candidate. It was flying ahead of us along the path.

Here is the only Jack in the Pulpit (Arisema triphyllum) that we found and of course I couldn’t resist lifting the hood up to take a photo of “Jack” (spadix).

We also came across this Bowl and Doily Spider (Frontinella communis) female.  She is big and fat and looks to me like she overwintered.

This day was certainly a spring tonic composed of many ingredients both to digest and to see and my mind and body were both invigorated by sunset.  I highly recommend it for everyone, especially the spring walk.

You might want to stop by another blog called Today Flowers by clicking here.


Lacebug Lady said...

I'm surprised you found any columbines this early!
As for the garlic mustard, it would be good to make it a specialty herb like arugula or ramps, so people would collect it and with that, control the spread of this invasive weed...please pass along any recipes you may know about.

Lacebug Lady

squirrel said...

Thanks Lacebug Lady. I have noticed that a lot of plants as well as insects are out early this year. We had a mild winter and that probably contributed. The garlic mustard was tasty in a salad and I think the instructor mentioned it could be cooked and eaten like other cooked greens but we didn't try that.