While we did have some nice days during the past winter months, we also had some very cold and icy periods in North Carolina. The way the temperatures were yo-yo-ing up and down (70s F and then 20s, 60s then 30s, etc.), the cold and nasty days seemed even worse than usual. I was going to post photos of birds in the snow but “life got in the way” and my time was preoccupied with other tasks. So I’ll jump right into spring with some floral beauties that are blooming.
This past Sunday, I went on a wildflower walk organized by the Friends of Bolin Creek and led by Dave Otto, who helped point out and identify the blossoms we were seeing. The Eastern spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) were exactly that – some almost completely white, others with lots of pink and a few with pink stripes on white backgrounds (below left). Some butterflies but especially different types of bees and flies collect nectar and pollen from these flowers and I have been told that the stripes help guide the insects to the pollen. I haven’t found confirmation of that theory, but it’s a nice idea.
Another small bloom that can be white or with shades of pink is the rue-anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides). Its leaves are more rounded, in contrast to the elongated leaves of the spring beauties.
We saw a few that looked almost lavender in color, stunning little blossoms that sway to and fro as the breeze moves their stems, undoubtedly contributing to their nickname of windflower.
A third white springtime flower is the star chickweed (Stellaria pubera), a cheerful springtime bloomer. While they appear to have 10 petals, the flower actually only has five that are almost split in two.
The crane-fly orchid (Tipularia discolor) only has one or two leaves (with dark purple undersides) that emerge in the fall and begin to die off in the springtime. By the end of summer, when the leaves are gone, the flower emerges.
The large-flower heartleaf (Hexastylis shuttleworthii), also known as wild ginger, does produce a flower in the spring that resembles a small brown jug.
Even though they are fairly common, the violets (Viola sororia) are among my favorites. Their deep blue or purple blooms look wonderful against the deep green leaves. The azure bluets (Houstonia caerulia), on the other hand, have a very subtle bluish tinge.
The slender toothwort is known by two scientific names (Cardamine angustata and Dentaria heterophylla) and depends on an appropriate habitat for survival. It can disappear as a result of land development or changes in land use.
Another favorite of mine in spring are the fiddleheads of the Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides). These curled fern fronds are collected to be cooked and served as vegetables, although the fiddleheads of this particular fern are not recommended as being particularly edible. It is a useful fern, though, as the full-grown leaves lie flat on the ground and contribute to controlling erosion and conserving soil by keeping fallen leaves in place as they decompose.
The heath woodrush (Lazula multiflora) is not such a spectacularly beautiful flower from my perspective but perhaps it is because of the muted colors. The turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) also often appear with browns, rust and blackish colors but I find that they always create a beautiful image as they grow on stumps with bands of different colors.
All the spring bloomers brought smiles as we walked. Next blog, I’ll describe some of the other spring harbingers and then feature some of the wildlife emerging into the sunlight these days. (And hopefully have more luck with layout; this remains challenging!)