The Spring Ephemerals, part 2

Everything is different this spring. So many more people are out enjoying the trails, which is great but for two things: overuse and poor (or no) social distancing. For these reasons I might not be going out often, but I can still blog with old pictures.

Floodplains along the river are overflowing with Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica; Boraginaceae). Usually colored a pure, intense blue (I call it borage blue), the color can be lighter, or a pale violet, or all pink, or pure white.

 

 

Mixed in with these, and also found upslope in slightly drier soils, you can see wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata; Polemoniaceae).

Moss phlox (P. subulata) might be blooming by now. If not, it will within a week or so. Look for it sprawling over rocks; the plants stand only a few inches tall. The flowers are almost identical to those of wild blue phlox, but the plants’ growth habits are completely different.

What’s Up? White Flowers

White flowers recently seen in the greater Carderock area.

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica; Boraginaceae) are of course normally blue, but every once in awhile you’ll see a stand of white ones. Look for them in floodplains and adjacent moist slopes.

 

 

Look for twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla; Berberidaceae) on rocky slopes along Billy Goat B; it will likely be done blooming by tomorrow.

 

 

Moss phlox (Phlox subulata; Polemoniaceae) should be blooming for at least another month. As you can see from the photo, it doesn’t need much soil. Look for in on large rock formations along the Potomac River.

 

 

Lyre-leaved rockcress (Arabidopsis lyrata; Brassicaceae) is another rock-loving species. They’re so wispy they can be hard to see, but should be blooming for at least another month.

 

 

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis; Papaveraceae) is almost done blooming. You can find it in rich woodlands, usually in colonies.

 

 

 

Early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis; Saxifragaceae) grows in thin soils in rocky woodlands. It’s one of the earliest bloomers but lasts for a fairly long time.

 

 

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides; Ranunculaceae) is just starting to bloom. It’s common in the Maryland piedmont but for some reason there isn’t much of it in the Potomac gorge. Look for it in the very open wooded areas near the Marsden Tract. It should bloom for another month.

Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) and the closely-related squirrel corn (D. canadensis; Papaveraceae) are both blooming in moist woodlands. In past years I’ve observed that the latter starts blooming a week or so after the former, so if you want to see both, go hunting soon. Neither lasts for long.

Feeling Moody

I’ve had a lot of fun the last few weeks shooting with the 70-200mm lens and the 105mm macro. A lot of pictures failed (that first lens is a beast if I’m shooting handheld in low light or a breeze), but I enjoy playing with light and shadows and I think I got some decent shots.

 

wild pinks (Silene caroliniana ssp. pensylvanica)

 

 

 

 

wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata)

 

 

 

 

plantain-leaved pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia)

 

 

 

 

early meadow rue (Thalictrum dioicum), staminate flowers

 

 

 

smooth rockcress (Boechera laevigata, formerly Arabis laevigata)

 

 

 

 

early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis, formerly Saxifraga virginiensis)

 

 

 

 

azure bluets (Houstonia caerulea)

 

 

 

 

leatherwood (Dirca palustris)

 

 

 

 

lyre-leaved rockcress (Arabidopsis lyrata)

 

 

sessile bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia)

Compressed (part 3)

And here are a few more early spring bloomers to watch for in the Potomac Gorge.

Not as common as some of the flowers in yesterday’s post, but still easily found in rocky areas, are early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis, formerly Saxifraga virginiensis), which are the white flowers on the right in this photo, and smooth rockcress (Boechera laevigata, formerly Arabis laevigata), which is the plant in bud on the left.

Growing right on top of boulders, the incomparably wispy and delicate lyre-leaved rockcress (Arabidopsis lyrata, formerly Arabis lyrata) are in full bloom already, but they have a long bloom period.
Also growing right on rocks, though in more open, sunny areas, is moss phlox (Phlox subulata). It, too, has a long bloom period.

Its cousin wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) is just starting to open in the dappled shade of the woods.

In a few upland areas, rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) are just starting.

 

 

Don’t forget to look up! Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is in full bloom.

 

 

 

 

Another yellow-flowering woody plant is leatherwood (Dirca palustris), but it’s uncommon. If you find a stand please post a comment!

 

 

And in deep shade on the forest floor, there are toadshades (Trillium sessile), delightful even before they flower.

 

 

More Teasers

Odd weather we’ve had this winter. Unusually cold on average, but with unusually warm days. Plants are emerging and budding up and some are blooming already, as I reported in the last post. Anyway, here’s more of what we can look forward to in the next month or so.

Jeffersonia diphylla (twinleaf; Berberidaceae)

I usually see these plants in large stands, and all the plants in a stand seem to flower at the same time, but the flowers only last a few days. I’m going to start watching for them in mid-March this year.

Packera aurea (golden ragwort; Asteraceae)

This is the same species I posted a picture of on Wednesday, with the purple buds. Such a perky thing. The first species in the Asteraceae to bloom ’round here.

 

Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot; Papaveraceae)

Since bloodroot grows from rhizomes, when there’s more than one plant they’re often in a line.

 

 

Erythronium americanum (trout lily; Liliaceae)

 

 

 

Erythronium albidum (white trout lily; Liliaceae)

 

 

 

 

Trillium sessile (toadshade; Liliaceae)

Honestly my love for this plant comes from that common name. This is peak bloom; the flower petals don’t spread open. Yellow flowering forms can be found near Carderock.

 

Stellaria pubera (star chickweed; Caryophyllaceae)

It’s all about those stamens. And fun fact: each flower has five petals. The petals are so deeply cleft that a single petal appears to be two petals.

 

Thalictrum thalictroides (rue anemone; Ranunculaceae)

In botanical Latin the suffix                “-oides” means “resembling”. So this species is “Thalictrum that looks like Thalictrum”. Thalictrum is “from thaliktron, a name used to describe a plant with divided leaves”.*

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells; Boraginaceae)

These will be carpeting floodplains and other very moist-soil areas in less than a month.

 

 

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox; Polemoniaceae)

Wild blue phlox starts blooming at about the same time as Virginia bluebells, but they last longer. It’s a glorious sight when these two and golden ragwort fill the woods.

 

*California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations
A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology
Compiled by Michael L. Charters