Despite the cold, late spring, I started searching for wild flowers in late April. The search is a rite of spring, even if there’s snow in the air and it makes no sense whatsoever.
The flower buds of willow shrubs were on hold (April 27),
As were the new shoots of False Hellebore after a freezing rain (April 29).
Desperate for color in a wintry April landscape, I detoured to the edge of a wetland and discovered a reliable indicator of the advancing season: Skunk Cabbage (April 29).
Finally, the weather took a serious turn for the better. The season of renewal erupted, with April events spilling over into early May. Migrating birds, black flies, wildflowers, baby animals, mud…..Spring!
A Rails-to-Trails recreation path, with willow shrubs in bloom (May 5)
The early blooms of willow shrubs (May 3), a lifeline for hungry bees
Marsh Marigold (May 5)
A tumbling brook, swollen by melting snow and frequent rain (May 5)
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.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier), a small flowering tree
Marsh Marigold in the wet soil along a small stream
White Trillium, a woodland wildflower favoring rich, moist soils (1 of 2)
Red Trillium in filtered light on a rich woodland site
The White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum, also called Large-flowered Trillium) has started to bloom — finally! This is a fairly common, carpet-forming, spring ephemeral that thrives in rich, moist woodlands. The large, showy flowers, 2 to 4 inches across, often turn pinkish as they age.
In late April and early May I look for trilliums (or hope for a call from a friend to tell me they’ve started to bloom). It’s a rite of spring. They’re among the first and most visible of the woodland wildflowers to bloom and are easily identified by their large three-leaf and three-petal form. The Trillium bloom signals the bloom of bellwort, Trout Lily, violets, Marsh Marigold, Bloodroot and other spring wild flowers as well.
I know of three species of trillium in the area: White (Large-flowered), Red (Wake-robin, Birthroot or Purple Trillium) and Painted Trillium. White Trillium is the largest and most abundant, sometimes forming spectacular carpets across the forest floor. I may find a handful of Red Trillium in a carpet of thousands of White Trillium, something I can’t explain. Both occur on rich woodland sites that are usually dominated by Sugar Maple and a variety of hardwood associates.
Deer and livestock can devastate wild flower populations, and the trilliums are no exception. 25 years after cattle grazing was discontinued on my property, I discovered my first Red Trillium, but the blossoms were soon browsed by deer. I was determined to win the battle and protected the remaining plant with a small garden fence. It is now thriving and several plants are currently in bloom. This experience explains, in part, why I often find an abundance of wildflowers on rugged, steep hillsides near roads – places where deer pressure is low and livestock are absent.
Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)
Red (Wake-robin, Birthroot, Purple) Trillium (Trillium erectum)
White (Large-flowered) Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)
A woodland carpet of White Trillium; Quinn’s Woods