August 4, 2010

A Walk in the Woods: From Flowers to Fruit

On my recent walks in the woods, I've been noticing that spring flowers have become fruits, of different colors and shapes, reminding me of the purpose of the blooms. This cheerful grouping of red berries are bunchberry (the middle photo at the link), Cornus canadensis; the clump of berries gave me an ah-hah moment: that's why the plant got its name! They look rather Christmas-like, don't they?

I was pleased to discover this elegant dark red fruit of the trillium, one of the most beautiful flowers of the spring woods. Shaped like a Hershey's kiss, the orderly maroon fruit is divided into 6 pie-like pieces.

Here are 3 remaining berries on a stalk of wild lily-of-the-valley. The delicate white flowers become round berries speckled with red.

I didn't photograph the tall white clusters of bloom of the White Baneberry this spring, but the berries are so striking and distinctive that I wanted to show them. Because of the berries, the plant is also known as Doll's Eyes. You can certainly see why, as the little black dots on the ends of the berries seem animated, little cartoon eyeballs. They look like aliens in a science fiction film, with eyes carried on the ends of the red stalks.

This rose-like flower is blooming now; I've admired it for years, wondered about it, but never bothered before to look it up. Of course, now I must know the names of things; a large flower with maple shapes leaves, it is the Purple-Flowering Raspberry. Another discovery: the fruit of this "rose" is a red berry, looking like a larger flattened pincushion version of the domesticated raspberry, and has a velvet quality to the look of the surface. How is it possible that I've never noticed these before?! unfortunately, they are supposed to be unpleasant to eat, both bitter and seedy. But no matter, blackberries are now ripening in their shiny dark masses.
UPDATE, August 8: Susan pointed out in comments that these berries certainly are good to eat, and I can confirm that, having tasted a few today.


  1. Altoon, these _are_ good to eat! You just have to leave them till they're ripe. I grew up calling them thimbleberries, but my husband learned (in Connecticut) to call them raspberry roses. They grow all around my house, here and there -- I love to see them bloom. If you look closely at the sepals and flower stems, they are covered with red-tipped glandular hairs.

  2. Susan, wow, thanks for the tip on the berries. My Peterson's guide said they weren't good to eat, as did some online sources. Next time I walk my alternative route, where there are many of them,and lots of blackberries, I'll give them a try.

  3. Altoon — thanks for these shots. I grow a number of Trilliums but have never seen a fruit like a Hershey's kiss. I need to brave the mosquitoes and see if mine have anything similar. I have a huge patch of Doll's Eyes which are just starting to turn white. I also have a red berried version with berries that are almost cherry pink — yummy.

    I recently took some photos at the Arboretum of the raspberry rose and was just about to try to identify it. I want to play around with a wallpaper design using the leaves and caps after the roses are gone. Looks like a plant Wm. Morris would have used for a wallpaper or fabric design ...

  4. Yes, thimbleberries...ate them last year. Blackberries are good this year! Love the flower of the trillium...haven't seen that and the doll's eyes. That shot is a treat! Thanks Altoon for your nature photos and enjoy!