Monday, April 23, 2012

Some Woodland Flowers

I made a check of the Yellow Lady’s Slipper orchid to see what I might expect in the way of blooms this year and found a single stalk growing.  Last year’s two stalks produced a total of three flowers.  Unfortunately, the flowers ended up withering before there was even a hope of them producing seed.  Each year seems to bring some new surprise from these plants.  I’m still waiting for the year the surprise turns out to be more plants.

I searched the slope in vane for more Yellow Lady’s Slipper plants.  This hillside doesn’t have an abundance of wildflowers, but there are a few of interest.  Basal leaves of the American Columbo are looking bright and fresh.  For some reason, I was reminded of tropical climates when I looked at this plant growing at the base of a young Sugar Maple.

A few Columbo plants have produced stalks that will bear a crop of flowers.  It’s always an odd sight to find one of these tall plants towering in the woods.

The Columbo flower buds are in place awaiting the elongation of the flower stalk.  A few of these plants bloom each year.  The other plants remain as a collection of basal leaves and return as such each year until the conditions are right for them to reproduce.  The flowering year is its last year of life.

Mayapple numbers seem to increase each year.  There are now large sections of the woods that support these plants. 

Many plants produced flowers this year.  Annual flower numbers fluctuate greatly, but I haven’t noticed any correlation between weather conditions and flowering.

Fruits are already developing in some flowers.  Most will disappear long before they become ripe. 

One of the showiest blooms on the hillside is that of the Violet Wood Sorrel.  These petals seem to luminesce in the woodland shadows and catch my attention whenever I walk by.

The plants prosper in places that tend to be free of leaves.  The downhill side of a fallen log is a perfect place to find these plants.  Leaves displaying a purple blush are almost as attractive as the blooms.

Violet Wood Sorrel also commonly grows in the raised soil around the base of large trees.  Not all leaves are heavily marked with purple patches, but all show some degree of violet coloring.

This hillside used to support a good population of Jack-in-the-pulpit.  Now I rarely see any blooming plants.  Most of the population is now composed of young, non-flowering plants.

Squawroot has finally pushed itself up through the leaves and is beginning to bloom.  These parasitic plants are without chlorophyll, so their color is quite pale.  They may look like a sign of ill health, but only a healthy ecosystem can support parasites.  I take them as a sign that the overall health of the Blue Jay Barrens woodlands is good.

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