Wildflower Favorites

Early spring wildflowers, the spring ephemerals, are vivid reminders of the fragile beauty and existence of life on earth. They tease and please with spectacular, short-lived blooms. They always leave us wanting more, and we’re quite willing to wait another year for another show. It never gets old.

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Serviceberry (Amelanchier), a small flowering tree

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Marsh Marigold in the wet soil along a small stream

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White Trillium, a woodland wildflower favoring rich, moist soils (1 of 2)

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Red Trillium in filtered light on a rich woodland site

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Early May Highlights, 2016

I’ve captured a sample of early May in Central New York, often dodging rain drops in the process. My mother had more than a passing interest in nature and would have loved this post.

She liked flowers, cultivated or wild, didn’t much matter.

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Fading glory: Red Trillium in a moist ravine, past peak bloom

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Willow (one of many species of wild willow shrubs)

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Wild Juneberry (also Serviceberry, Amelanchier or Shadbush)

She kept a bird feeder and enjoyed her backyard visitors. Early May was peak migration and full of surprises.

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Goldfinch perched near a Nyjer seed feeder

Of course everyone loves babies. These family photos would have been plastered all over the wall (and the real family photos pushed aside)!

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Family of Canadian Geese (there were 8 goslings in all, just a few days old)

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Bald Eagle, tearing small pieces from a kill to feed her 3 youngsters

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Raising young is a team effort: parent #2 arrives with a duck in its grasp (determined from another image in the sequence)!

Happy Mother’s Day

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

The Arboreal Bloom

Small flowering trees are a beautiful element in spring landscapes, cultivated and wild alike. Their peak blooming periods coincide with, or follow, the traditional flush of spring wildflowers and can be spectacular. Severe winter weather limits our species diversity, but the few that prosper are eagerly anticipated spring highlights.

The first species of note to appear in natural landscapes is Serviceberry, also called Shadbush, Juneberry or Amelanchier. In late June and early July, I’ll be competing with robins, catbirds and grouse for the small, blueberry-like fruits.

Serviceberry in full bloom, weeks beyond normal due to extended cold weather in late winter and early spring

Redbud flourishes in the wild a couple hundred miles to the south. Here, it performs fairly well at lower elevations in cultivated landscapes — when the flower buds don’t freeze.

Eastern Redbud, just beyond peak bloom (flowers generally develop before the leaves; 1 of 2)

The most prominent small, flowering tree in Central New York is, oddly, an introduced species: wild (domestic) apple. There are many varieties in the wild, differing slightly in form, flower color, fruit characteristics, etc. But, as a whole, the value added to our visual resources is immeasurable.

House Wren in a wild apple tree near its nest box

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Small, Flowering Trees in the Landscape: Serviceberry

Small trees with showy flowers are a special part of the spring landscape, treasured by naturalists, backyard enthusiasts and landscape professionals alike. Native species like Eastern Redbud (Cercis), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus) and Serviceberry (Amelanchier; Juneberry, Shadbush) are popular, early bloomers, as are the exotic Star and Saucer Magnolias (Magnolia). My focus in this post is the native plants, specifically  Serviceberry.

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Flowering Dogwood

Until recently, this locale was classified as Hardiness Zone 4 (minimum winter temperature reaching minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit). At these temperatures, the flower buds of Flowering Dogwood and Redbud freeze, but Serviceberry is unaffected. For a period of a week or so in late April or early May woodlands and forest edges are dotted with blooming Serviceberries, their vivid white flowers contrasting sharply with the brown, gray and pale green colors of the spring landscape.

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There are many species and cultivars of Serviceberry, including shrubby and small tree forms, and they’re not always easy to distinguish. The species that I’ve photographed is a small, native tree that I find very appealing.

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Serviceberry tree in full bloom in early May; this tree is fairly old and has reached a maximum size of about 8 inches in diameter and 25 feet in height

Serviceberry in full bloom (4):

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The fact that Serviceberry thrives in this area and yields a delicious, blueberry-like fruit has led me to consider purchasing plants for my garden.  A cultivar of Saskatoon Serviceberry, grown for commercial fruit production in Canada and elsewhere, has been recommended. I plan to follow up on this, knowing that the Robins, Cedar Waxwings and other songbirds will likely beat me to the crop.

All photos by NB Hunter