If There’s One, Maybe There Are More

Some of our spring ephemerals are large and showy, like Virginia bluebells. Some are smaller yet also showy, like trout lily. But many are quite small, and not showy at all, unless you see them up close and en masse.

That’s the case with round-lobe hepatica (Anemone americana, formerly Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa; Ranunculaceae).

Last Thursday, I walked over to the area where I photographed a single clump of these flowers a month ago. All by themselves like this, they really stand out. That’s not usually the case, though. These little charmers love to hide in the leaf litter.

this is an unusually open location (click to enlarge and see the flowers)

I’d heard rumors that there were more to be found in that area, so I spent a long time walking slowly and looking for anything colorful. As my eyes acclimated I started seeing them – first one, then another and another. In an area where I thought there was only one plant, there were a dozen.

Check out the variation in color. I did minimal processing of these photos in order to preserve the range of color, from dark blue to pure white.

All these plants were putting up just a few flowers. The clump pictured in the first three photos is unusually large and robust, and showier since it’s growing in an open area.

In this photo to the right you can see a few leaves below the white blossoms. Round-lobe hepatica is hibernal, meaning the leaves grow in the summer and stay through autumn and winter, dying back in the spring as the plant blooms.

The flowers pictured below are a very pale blue.

Round-lobe hepatica is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring; it can be found in most of Maryland except for part of the coastal plain. Look for it now on wooded slopes where the soil is relatively dry.(I’ll get back to the whole native/alien thing soon, really.)

First Signs of Spring

A week ago, word was that spring beauties were up, but I haven’t seen them yet. I’ve been watching for skunk cabbage – usually the first wildflower around here to bloom – but haven’t found it yet, either.

So on Sunday afternoon, before departing for the West for a few days, I took a quick walk on the Cabin John, hoping but not expecting to find something blooming. I did see spotted wintergreen plants,

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and princess pine, as expected.  Then I decided to go up a side trail and see if round-lobed hepatica was still there (the leaves persist through winter).  It was.  I carefully moved a few beech leaves aside to get a clear picture, then I noticed this:

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New buds popping up! They should be blooming by now.  The first wildflowers of 2016, at least in this area.

I’m hastily typing this post from a diner in Pahrump, Nevada. Wondering what I’m doing there?  Ever heard the phrase “superbloom”? I have hundreds of photos to go through, and it will take days, but expect a few Death Valley posts over the next month.

Off hunting!

What’s Green Now? Round-Lobed Hepatica

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Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa; Ranunculaceae

I wouldn’t have seen this plant if I didn’t know exactly where to look, for it was mostly covered by fallen oak and beech leaves.  Hepatica is a true evergreen forb: the leaves (in a basal rosette) re-grow after the plant flowers and last all year, until the next time the plant flowers.

In early April start watching for the blossoms, on naked stems standing a few inches tall:

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I’m forever grateful to the kind Swedish couple who told me where to look for hepatica.