Thursday, May 9, 2013

"March winds and April showers ..."

This year the late winter and early spring temperatures were closer to the seasonal norms, and as a result many of the first wildflowers are blooming three weeks behind compared to the spring of 2012 with its early arrival of mild weather. However, the warm spell of the past week or so did indeed bring forth May's flowers and everything seems to be bursting into bloom all at once.

As always, I'm constantly stumbling across flowers that I've passed by in previous years. In fact, much to my chagrin, it seems that for the past six years I've been walking past – and probably stepping on – hundreds of specimens of Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum) without noticing. And all of these plants were growing along the trans-Canada Trail not half a kilometer from my home ...

The distinctive purplish flowers are easy to overlook as they arise close to the ground near the base of the plant. This is not the same herb as used to produce culinary ginger but the crushed rhizomes definitely do smell the same.

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) are by no means uncommon, yet they are another spring ephemeral that have somehow escaped my notice until now. These specimens were encountered growing along Rapids Road.

By the time I found this patch of Round-lobed Hepatica (Anemone americana) leaves early last May it was way too late to grab a photo of the blossoms, as the plant produces flowers before it puts forth leaves.

As luck would have it I forgot where I took the above picture but a friend found a group of Round-lobed Hepatica growing along the trans-Canada Trail. A week later I encountered another small patch on my while out and about exploring on my own.

One of last year's leaves that has survived the winter in fairly good shape.

These beautiful little wildflowers come in shades of pale to dark blue or mauve, and occasionally white.

Until recently I only knew of Sessile-leaved Bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) from three plants found growing along the Skootamatta River at the Price Conservation Area. This patch – numbering probably about a thousand – is along the path leading to what is known locally as "the Point".

Hairy Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum pubescens) ... the sheen on the underside of the leaves in the second image is caused by fine hairs, the best means of distinguishing this plant from Smooth Solomon's Seal.

Commonly encountered along shady areas of the trans-Canada trail, Hairy Solomon's Seal seems to adapt adapt and thrive equally well in sunlit settings.

A few days ago I had the privilege of attending my first Monday Evening Guided Hike hosted by Terry Sprague. In addition to the fresh air and exercise it was good to be able to draw on the expertise of a group of knowledgeable nature lovers. Just as well for me, as ... based on the superficial similarity of the leaves ... I mistook these patches of Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum giganteum) for a species of Meadowrue, an error one of the other hikers corrected.

The last time I chanced upon this wildflower was in late August two years ago. I did identify this specimen correctly on the basis of its remarkably spherical bright blue berries, but Monday was the first time I have seen the plant's springtime incarnation while in full bloom.

The location of the hike was Hepatica Hill near Hunt Road south of Tweed. There was an abundance of woodland wildflowers, and in addition to Sharp-lobed Hepaticas there was a extravagance of White and Red Trilliums, some Large-flowered Bellwort and Dutchman's Breeches ... and Canada Violets (Viola canadensis), a species new to me.

The distinguishing features of this flower are its yellow throat and the pale purple backside of the blossom – note the bud behind the open flower. I did take photos of the backs of flowers in full bloom but they were all out of focus ... evening light in a forest setting makes a bad combination for taking pictures with a point-and-shoot camera.

The flowers of Wild Leek (Allium tricoccum) appear after the leaves have died off in early summer. This ubiquitous plant was easy to identify ... with several people walking in the woods it was impossible to avoid stepping on the leaves, and the air was filled with the onion or garlic like odour so typical of the Allium family.