Monday, April 7, 2014

First Woodland Blooms

I spent a little time yesterday walking the woods in search of early spring flowers.  At first glance it didn’t appear that I would a green leaf, let alone a blooming plant.  After 29 years of walking these woods, I’ve had to accept the fact that Blue Jay Barrens is a disappointment in the category of spring woodland flowers.  The shallow soils and dry conditions, along with historic land abuse, have not allowed massive quantities of the typical spring woodland wildflowers.

It wasn’t long before I spotted Blue Jay Barrens’ most common early spring bloomer.  White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum, grows throughout the woods, but is generally found as scattered plants instead of thick stands.

Leatherwood shrubs, Dirca palustris, were in full bloom.  The droopy yellow flowers are quite showy from a distance of a few feet.  From farther away they are hardly noticeable in the sun drenched woodland understory.

Hazelnut, Corylus americana, was also in full bloom.  Leatherwood is a beacon compared to the diminutive flower of the Hazelnut.  Unless they are actively seeking it, most people never see this bloom.

Hazelnut is one of those plants that has separate male and female flowers.  What people see are they highly visible pollen producing catkins that hang like miniature opossum tails from the branch.  The female flower from which the edible nut will develop is represented by a tiny cluster of red pistils that wither soon after pollination.

The showiest blooms came from this Red Maple, Acer rubrum, growing at the edge of the woods.  The vibrant red blooms make this tree hard to miss.  This is another species that has separate male and female flowers.  Shown here are the male flowers.  I couldn’t find any female flowers anywhere on the tree.  The lack of female flowers causes me no distress since Red Maples can be aggressively invasive in open fields.  I would be happiest if the tree didn’t produce any seeds.

A few other woodland species had reached the point of developing flower buds.  This is Toad Trillium, Trillium sessile, my most common Trillium species.  Unfortunately, the deer browse heavily on this plant and many will be eaten before they have an opportunity to bloom.

Purple Cress, Cardamine douglassii, can also be found throughout the woods.  This is a hairier and slightly shorter version of the common Spring Cress.  Spring Cress tends to be confined to the areas of moister soils, where as Purple Cress thrives from the flood plains to the driest ridge tops.

Not even a flower bud here.  The distinctive leaves of Puttyroot, Aplectrum hyemale, are a promise of blooms to come later in the summer.  It won’t be a showy bloom, but it’s what I’ve come to expect from the woodland flowers of Blue Jay Barrens and I know it will be enjoyed.


  1. Hi Steve.... That Trout Lily really made me long to see some wild flowers, but I could settle for a blade of green grass at this point : )
    Nice photo's to make me hopeful!!

    Heavy rain and 60 degrees for tomorrow ought to get some things moving!!


  2. Hi Grace. The storms keep coming through here on a regular basis, but they are rain instead of snow. It's a welcome change.