The roots and bulbs and seeds were tired of waiting, and as there was no lion-of-winter lurking outside to hold them in, Spring has come early to the Southeast, and that’s quite alright with me, the Robins, the mosquitos and everyone in-between.
Here are native wildflowers you can find right now, near rivers and creeks and rock ledges that hold a little water, with thanks to my earthy Mama who frequently called me out of the creek-bed when I was little, collecting rocks and catching frogs, to make me see what was blooming on the banks. She said I’d want to know one day, and now that day has come.
Behold the lovely Trout Lily (Erythronium Americanum) of Liliacease, the Lily Family. She’s the reason we first drop down into the woodlands to flower-hunt in the Spring, hauling cameras and identification books, usually on the rumor that someone somewhere has already spotted her. One of my favorite things about wildflowers is the foliage. With cultivated varieties, they concentrate on the flower- the bigger the better- often to the detriment of the leaves. The Trout Lily is so-called for the mottled basal leaves, similar to the speckled trout.
These are the flowers of the Round-lobed Hepatica (Anemone Americana). They are very light purple to violet, the stem is hairy and the foliage is round and lobed, just like the name says, however the foliage is notably and strangely absent this year. It could be the premature Spring- but hopefully the leaves will come up soon and all will be well.
The petite and subtle Early Saxifrage could be passed by without notice as it clings to slopes, ledges and rocks. The name Saxifrage in the latin means “rock-breaker”.
The above two pictures are of False Rue-Anemone, not to be confused with Rue-Anemone, though they are both in the Buttercup Family. This is a rare find, only found in basic-mesic forests.
Spring-Beauties, or Wild Potato (Claytonia virginica) bring the first cheery mass of color to the new year. There is a little tiny potato attached to the root system that is good to eat, although the quantity needed for a meal would require many hours of preparation, but still it’s good to know! If only we could find a tree with sap that tasted like gravy, I’d happily be a woods-dweller.
Now here’s a special one. One of the easiest of the Spring-bloomers, most commonly called Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) it also goes by many other names including Red Puccoon, Red Indian Paint, Turmeric, Snakebite and Pauson, which indicate all the myriad uses of the plant, from the dye and paint made from the juice, to the acrid powder of the dried root, to the highly toxic properties of the foliage. It is in Papaveraceae (the Poppy Family) and contains a compound, sanguinarine, that inhibits plaque formation on teeth and was harvested many years for this purpose. It is now produced by a larger, faster-growing plume poppy.
The foliage of the Mayapple and Trillium are unfurling, with the blooms to join the late-season wildflowers, like Shooting-Star and Jack-in-the-Pulpit.
But right now (this very minute–get your boots on!) there are so many other lovely things to see, like moss, lichen, fungi and the dry golden leaves of the beech-tree, holding tight, adding to the beauty as long they can.
So go outside and look and see!