May 14, 2014

A Walk in the Woods: Ah, Spring's Treasures!

I hadn't been in the woods in weeks––bad weather, traveling, an awful cold, and intense vegetable garden work all kept me away––but on Sunday I did my familiar loop. What an immense change had occurred in those few weeks! It was now true spring, and carpets of tiny woodland flowers decorated the path, with the delicate magenta-striped Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica, most abundant, and so cheerful.

The other small spring flowers in the woods are more scattered, though still a delight to see, like the Round-Lobed Hepatica....

....and the yellow....

...and purple violets. With their downward nodding heads, the violets seem a shy flower, so it's even more of a pleasure to notice them.

Another of my favorite woodland wildflowers is Bellwort, a graceful and delicate beauty. It has spread along a stone wall that bounds the path, this section of which is an "ancient road"; farther along is a very old cellar hole, evidence of earlier occupation.

Along the same stretch of road are the most spectacular spring flowers, Trillium erectum, aka Wake Robin. The flowers are large, a good three inches, with only 3 petals and very large leaves. They seem almost too showy and grand to be wildflowers. If you enlarge this photo by clicking on it, you'll see an ant walking across the edge of a petal and the shadow of another on a leaf. It is a busy time for the insects too.

It's not only flowers that show their beauty in early spring; as new fern fronds emerge, each species with its own form, they seem as though they are dancers gracefully swaying to silent tunes.

Or like Busby Berkeley dancers, they curl towards a center, ready to unfurl outwards, spreading their blades wide.

In the woods there's not only new green life, but also seeds and seed heads ready to spread thousands of tiny seeds for new plants. This is the seed head of the marvelous and unusual Indian Pipe plant, a plant that is white because it's without chlorophyll; it lives by being a parasite on its willing hosts, trees and fungi. You can read more about this strange plant at the link. I always feel happy when seeing their white apparition in the woods, and I felt very lucky to have found these beautifully formed seed heads. Each year, each season, all these wonders delight me afresh, as though I am seeing them for the first time.

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