25 March 2011

Fear Not, Northerners!

Although the calendar indicates that winter has officially ended, the weather in northern Indiana during the past few days hasn't felt very spring-like... and it doesn't appear that the temperature will increase much in the next week or so. Believe it or not, though, the spring wildflowers are preparing to do their thing. There has been an increase in wildflower posts on the blogs that I follow from southern Indiana, southern Ohio, and Missouri in the past couple of weeks, indicating that the spring flora is maturing in those areas. Unable to wait, I headed out in the field both of the past two weekends to see what I could find. On March 13 in Culver, Indiana, Lee Casebere, Scott Holaday, and I saw the spathe and spadix inflorescences of Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus, below), our earliest flowering native plant in this part of the state.

There wasn't anything else in bloom in these northern Indiana woods, so the next weekend (March 19) Lee and I drove to southeastern Indiana, primarily in search of Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale), by far our smallest, cutest, and earliest flowering trillium.

We weren't disappointed! After just 30 minutes or so of taking photographs of Snow Trillium, I told Lee that it was already worth the 4 hour drive to the site from my house.

A few of the plants, like the one below, had lightly pink-tinged petals.

Snow Trillium wasn't the only plant in flower in these woods. The diminutive and inconspicuous Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa, below) was also in bloom.

Another early season bloomer, Sharplobe Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. acuta, below) was also in flower. However, we had to wait until later in the day to see the inside of the flowers, as they close up at night.

Finding these species in flower was not unexpected in southern Indiana in mid-March, but the next few surprised me. A few plants of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, below) had started to open.

Another plant that I hadn't expected to see in flower so early in the year was Virginia Springbeauty (Claytonia virginica, below). I can't find much information about the pubescence of the species, but one source that I found said that the stem and leaves are supposed to be glabrous. The plant in the photograph below is distinctly pubescent.

Although not yet in flower, Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica, below) already had visible flower buds.

Finally, although it won't be in flower until much later in the year, we saw several plants of Crippled Cranefly (Tipularia discolor, below), an orchid that is found more easily in winter (when the leaves are present) than when the nearly invisible flowers are present (and leaves are absent) later in the year.

Note the green, wrinkled top surface of the leaf (above) and the strongly purlish undersurface (below). This orchid is much more common in the southern half of Indiana than it is in the northern part of the state, so I never tire of seeing it.

So, for those of you north of here that still have snow on the ground, and for those at this latitude who are itching to get out and see plants blooming, hopefully this gives you some hope that shortly after we get past this cold stretch, the forests will be exploding with color.


Heather@RestoringTheLandscape.com said...

Thanks Scott
Just what I needed. We still have so much snow on the ground.

Scott Namestnik said...

Sure hope we're done with the snow...