Trout Lily

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum; also called Adder’s Tongue, Dogtooth Violet) is a common, widespread wildflower that blooms in early spring. I find it growing on a wide variety of sites, including rich woodlands, forest edges and old, abandoned pastureland succeeding to woody plants.

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Viewed closely when the lighting and background are just right, the nodding yellow flowers with reflexed petals are a beautiful woodland sight. A pair of mottled leaves, somewhat resembling the dorsal coloring of a Brook Trout, are prominent at the base of the flower stalk. Trout Lily is colony-forming and it is not unusual to find dozens of crowded plants in a small area, devoid of flowers. I can’t explain this phenomenon completely, but the lack of flowers is reportedly a function of crowding, plant age, site quality and/or browsing by herbivores.

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All photos by NB Hunter

Wildflowers – an Early Spring Favorite

Unseasonably warm and dry weather, coupled with the leaf-out of woody plants, means the spectacular bloom of the early spring wildflowers will soon be a memory. While it’s still fresh in my mind, I must cover one of my favorite spring “ephemerals”: Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).

Bloodroot is a delicate but showy wildflower found growing on rich woodland sites. A single white flower, its stalk partially enveloped by a single, deeply lobed leaf, is distinctive. A broken stalk “bleeds” orange-red, hence the name. Regarding the term “ephemeral: the day after these photos were taken the bloom had deteriorated significantly.

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Painted Trillium

Posting a photo journal has been very enlightening with regard to the strengths and weaknesses of my photography and photo inventory. After my recent trillium post I realized that I had too few photos of Painted Trillium and also needed to work more outside the box,  experiment more, and of course learn something in the process.

This morning I found a half dozen or so Painted Trilliums scattered about under an open canopy of Eastern Hemlock and Red Maple.at the edge of a dense stand of mature hemlock. I’ll share the results.

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All photos by NB Hunter

Early Spring Wildflowers – Marsh Marigold

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Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), a member of the buttercup family, is a familiar sign of spring, blanketing wet places with clumps of bright yellow flowers. Now in full bloom, it can be found along streams, in marshes, on the borders of wet, roadside ditches and similar places. If you get your hiking boots covered in wet muck soil, perhaps see a frog or two, you’re in marigold habitat.

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Marsh Marigolds in full bloom along a small stream

Small, round flower buds produce flowers with vivid yellow sepals (not petals).

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The nectar of early spring flowers is a critical food source for bees, flies and other insects. Marsh Marigolds are especially important in this regard due to their abundance and profuse blooming habit.

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All photos by NB Hunter.

Spring Wildflowers – The Trilliums

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.

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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)

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Red (Wake-robin, Birthroot, Purple) Trillium (Trillium erectum)

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White (Large-flowered) Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

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A woodland carpet of White Trillium; Quinn’s Woods