I Am So Ready

What a winter this has been! Temperatures bouncing around, crazy amounts of rain, or sleet, or snow, or any combination of the three… My favorite trails are all a mess of slick mud.

<–a single harbinger-of-spring plant emerging on March 6, 2019

blooming (February 28, 2018) –>





Nonetheless I’ve taken a few quick hikes to see if anything’s coming up yet. Last year on March 5, round-lobed hepatica was blooming on the Cabin John Trail, along with a single incredibly early Virginia bluebell. This year on March 5, I saw a single clump of hepatica leaves, without buds.

^ one spring beauty with two buds, March 6, 2019

blooming (April 10, 2018) –>



On the Billy Goat trails last year I saw the earliest harbingers-of-spring and spring beauties on February 28. This year on March 6, I saw a single harbinger plant barely up, one spring beauty with two buds, a single golden ragwort budding up, and quite a few Virginia bluebell plants poking out of the mud.

^ golden ragwort in bud, March 6, 2019

 blooming (April 5, 2017) –>




It’s going to be an interesting year. Flood damage in the Potomac Gorge is the worst I’ve seen in six years of monitoring the area. Alien invasives are starting to emerge from the mud and sand; did the floods do any real harm to those populations? Will that allow the natives a chance to grow better, or were they equally affected?

^ Virginia bluebells emerging from the mud, March 6, 2019

a stupidly early Virginia bluebell opening on March 5, 2018 –>


Hang in there, friends –spring is almost here.

Virginia bluebells carpeting the floodplain (April 10, 2017)

Two White Violets


creamy violet
Viola striata





sweet white violet
Viola blanda




It is with some trepidation that I venture into violet territory, as there are 117 species across the US, and violets are known to hybridize freely, so that identification often comes down to tiny little details.

According to the blog Mid-Atlantic Nature, nine white violets can be found in this area. A cross check with the Maryland Biodiversity Project shows that only six of these are present in the Maryland piedmont. And, the two shown in this post have some unique characteristics, so I’m fairly confident that they’ve been correctly identified.

As you can see in the pictures (if you zoom in), creamy white violet has two bearded petals, while sweet white violet has a reddish-brown stem .

Creamy violet is all over the place on Billy Goat C downstream of Carderock, with some occurrences upstream along Billy Goat B as well. I’m honestly not sure If I’ve seen sweet white violet in that area; You have to be pretty close to see the details. I saw this one plant (only this one plant) in Rachel Carson Conservation Park.

The two species have similar ranges, in most parts of the country east of the Great Plains, with V. blanda found further north and V. striata further west.

Update 5/10/16

It’s possible that the sweet white violet pictured above is actually primrose-leaved violet, V. primulifolia, a naturally occuring hybrid of V. lanceolata and V. macloskeyi. I can’t really say without better pictures.