Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Forest full of Flowers

Since their blossoms generally tend to be small and inconspicuous, trees and shrubs are often overlooked as being flowering plants. One of the first harbingers of spring, these Pussy Willow catkins were photographed on March 7th. The catkins in the picture below taken on March 22nd are mature enough to tell that they bear male or staminate flowers – you can see a fine yellow dusting of pollen released if you rap the twig sharply. Pussy Willows are dioecious, an individual plant bears only male or only female flowers.

Silver Maple in full bloom along the Moira River on the last day of winter, March 19th. Despite their size, the tiny flowers of trees can be just as colorful and charming as the larger, showier blossoms of any other plants.

The male flowers of Speckled Alder, photographed on March 20th. Speckled Alders are monoecious, an individual tree bears both male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers.

The cone-like strobili, or pistillate catkins, associated with the female flowers. These are still immature, they will open as they age to disperse the seeds. This photo was taken on July 14th of last year ...

... and last year's strobili as they appear now, they feel quite hard and woody to the touch.

Quaking or Trembling Aspen – male or staminate flowers, this tree is dioecious, the male and female flowers are borne on separate trees.

There were also elms blossoming in mid-March, but alas, I couldn't take any photos because the catkins were out of reach of my camera, and I'm getting way too old to be climbing like a monkey.

The pace of flowering picks up in early to mid-April. Generally considered to be a weed, Boxelder Maple (Acer negundo) is dioecious, these are the flowers of a male tree.

Finally – a tree (albeit a small one) with what appears to be real, self-respecting flowers. Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.), a member of the Rose family, blossoms just as the leaves are unfurling. There are several species of Amelanchier that often hybridize, creating identification nightmares for amateurs like myself.

Moving from the canopy to the woodland floor – like the trees, grasses and their relatives, the sedges and rushes, generally aren't thought of as being "flowers". On the first weekend of April the tiny blossoms of Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica) create bright sparks of color among last years dead leaves.

The first Hepaticas of the year are also open. Hepaticas belong the the same family as buttercups – Ranunculaceae. One of last year's old leaves is visible to the lower right of the first image, identifying these flowers as Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis acuta). Has there been a re-classification in the world of botany? Ontario Wildflowers gives the Latin name of this species as Anemone acutiloba.

The very hairy stems are characteristic of hepaticas. Some of the flowers were a beautiful pale lilac color, but the images were unsatisfactory due to poor lighting and being out of focus.

A closeup of the Sharp-lobed Hepatica. These flowers were photographed in the deciduous woodlands along Rapids Road.

Another woodland wildflower that's a sure sign of early spring, these Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) blossoms were encountered about half a kilometer east of town. Bloodroot belong to the Poppy family, Papaveraceae. The flowers open before the leaves, note how the leaves clasp the stems during this stage of growth.

Several plants thriving in shallow soil on top of a rock.

A couple of closeup shots of the flowers.

The seed pod – this plant has already finished blooming.

A photo of the leaves fully unfurled after the plant has completed its flowering period, taken in early May of last year.

There are many species of violet in our area (until I took up nature photography, I had the notion that there were only two kinds – blue, and yellow). The flowers of Dog Violet (Viola conspersa) have a small spur on the back.

"The question is not what you look at, but what you see." – Henry David Thoreau. Indeed ... how many times have I merely looked at, or walked past, groups of Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides), but not seen them until today? Not to mention I've been somehow blind to the possibility that there may be more than one species of strawberry. And I wonder – what else have I not been seeing ... ?