The saying that “you can’t cross the same river twice” is also true for a woodland trail. Each hike on the Bent Twig Trail is an encounter with a changing landscape. This spring the visible changes came on like a slow rumble that tumbled into an avalanche of electric green in a matter of weeks. The trail has become almost buried beneath this lush loveliness; and the wildflowers are in serious business mode. These ephemeral woodland beauties are under the looming deadline of a closed forest canopy, by which their reproductive success or failure will be measured. In the spring, woodland wildflowers take this short window of opportunity seriously; and have been busy with their marketing strategies, much of it directed towards displaying colorful banners (petals) and odoriferous scents aimed at attracting pollinators.
The bloodroot, Sanquinaria candensis that were displaying lovely blossoms a few weeks ago, now have seed capsules that look ripe and ready to send their seeds off to do what a few may succeed at doing– producing more bloodroot.
The flowers of the mayapple that I talked about in last week’s post have mostly faded and a few have set fruit. With any luck, the fruit will swell in the coming weeks to the size of a hen’s egg, then turn a soft lemon yellow when ripened. Skunks, opossums, and raccoon will happily eat the fruit and spread the seeds along with a packet of organic fertilizer.
But there are still spring wildflowers blooming in the darkening woods, and these have stories unfolding before our eyes.
Star chickweed, Stellaria pubera, glows from the undergrowth. Its star-like blossoms are fitting of both the common name and the genus, Stellaria. Related to the weedy chickweed, Stellaria media, that crowds our gardens, the star chickweed not only has more showy flowers and larger leaves and habit, its species name, pubera, denotes that the leaves and stems are hairy or pubescent, as in puberty.
Another star found on the trail now is the daisy or common fleabane, Erigeron spp. The family name, aster, is a reference to its celestial namesake: think asteroid, astronomy, and astrology. Erigeron is a large genus with many similar species. Some are weedy, but even these serve as nectar and pollen sources for many pollinators, especially native bees. The name daisy arose because the flowers resemble small suns, and the sun was considered the “eye of the day”. Thus, days-eye became daisy. The name fleabane is a reference to a belief that dried fleabane plants repelled fleas. The genus, Erigeron is from the Latin and Greek words for early and old, as these flowers fade to a gray rather quickly.
This is a fertile time in the woods, fields, and wetlands of Bernheim to witness unfolding stories. Take a hike, step into this river of green, become a part of this changing landscape. You’ll be glad you did.
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