Monday dawned sunny and cool, beautiful weather for wildflower hunting. Despite my resolution to stay put during this health crisis, I decided it might be worth trying Rachel Carson Conservation Park. It was a good call – for most of the time I was there, I had the place to myself.
That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that it’s too early in the season for some of the flowers I wanted to see. But there were other things blooming, like round-lobed hepatica (Anemone americana; Ranunculaceae).The flower colors can vary from white through pale blue to a deep, almost purple blue, and sometimes even pink.
The white-flowering hepatica [right] looks a lot like another member of the same family, Thalictrum thalictroides, or rue anemone [below]. The leaves are entirely different, though. Rue anemone flowers are almost always pure white, but sometimes they can be a little pink, with reddish leaves.
Well, I’ve made the decision: no wildflower hunting for the foreseeable future. You can imagine how sad this makes me. But people just aren’t being careful about social distancing, and there isn’t enough open space for everyone who insists on going out.
In the meantime, I’ll follow the season by posting old pictures.
If I were being strictly chronological, harbinger-of spring (Erigenia bulbosa; Apiaceae) would have been the first plant in this series of posts. It’s almost certainly done blooming by now.
These little plants bedevil me: they grow only a few inches tall, the individual flowers are tiny (notice the oak leaf in the picture below), and they’re so dainty that they’re always in motion, so they’re tricky to photograph. I do love trying, though.
Another one that’s never still is lyre-leaved rockcress (Arabidopsis lyrata; Brassicaceae). Growing right out of small depressions in rocks, these plants stand just a few inches taller than harbinger of spring. Look how slender those stems are compared to the pine needles lying nearby. I’ve seen stands of these blooming as late in the season as early June.
Here’s another diminutive plant that grows in moist, rocky areas: early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis, formerly Saxifraga virginiensis; Saxifragaceae). Its blooming period can start as early as late March and last through early May.
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.