Posts Tagged Bloodroot
Is it just me, or is Spring flying by even faster than usual this year? I am running from dawn to dark and still my gardening to-do list continues to grow exponentially. In the last few weeks, I have at least been taking a few pictures, which I’d like to share today. All but the latest blooming daffodils are done now, but the one in the above photo was so pretty a couple of weeks ago that I just had to share it.
The above photo is also from two weeks ago, when the fern fiddleheads were just beginning to rise out of the swamp. The shiny leaves all around them belong to Atamasco lilies, which last time I checked, were not yet blooming.
It took a warm spell to finally coax them from their winter hibernation spots, but the Green Anoles have now resumed sunning themselves on my front deck.
The Solomon’s Seals are now well up and blooming profusely, but two weeks ago, their fat reddish buds were just emerging from the soil.
My Bloodroot flowers were badly damaged by our 18-degree cold spell this spring, but a few late bloomers managed to save themselves for warmer days.
My patch of Mayapples grows larger every year, as does the patch of Bladdernut shrubs at whose feet these spring ephemeral wildflowers grow.
I took this long shot because I liked the way you can see this year’s flower buds emerging above the branches while last year’s fruits still dangle below them.
The above photo and those that follow were all taken on April 12. Weather and time constraints have prevented more recent shots, but a promised upcoming dry weekend will once again provide time for photographs, I hope.
The Redbuds are mostly past their blooming time now, but a week ago they were still spectacular.
The magnificent dogwoods on my property are a bit ragged from recent rains now, but they were perfect a week ago.
The above was an early blossom. Now my yard is covered in the blooming stalks of Eastern Columbines. I’ve long known these are a favorite of hummingbirds, but only this week did I learn just how sweet the nectar is. Sally Heiney, a Horticultural Technician at the NC Botanical Garden, insisted that I taste the nectar hiding in the long spurs of these flowers. It was delightfully sweet! Sally tells me these flowers are a lovely addition to salads, and I hope to try some that way this weekend. Thanks, Sally!
My early-blooming deciduous magnolias were also casualties of the 18-degree cold snap, but like the Bloodroots, a few of this tree’s blossoms opened after the cold had passed, yielding a perfect parchment-colored blossom.
Alas, most of Elizabeth’s blossoms and buds looked like this. So sad.
The Florida Anise-trees are blooming profusely. The yellow flecks are pine pollen. Thankfully, the rains have washed all that away — for now, at least.
The Golden Ragworts continue to spread and bloom. They’re becoming a ground cover in their area, which is fine with me.
My thanks to Wonder Spouse for taking the above photo. These flowers are small, and I always have trouble persuading them to pose for me. I love our naturally occurring patch of Pawpaw trees beside our creek. They are the only larval food of our native Zebra Swallowtail butterfly. And I’ve already spotted a fresh Zebra flying around the yard this year! They are gorgeous.
My Pinxterbloom Azaleas are in full bloom now. They were just getting started when this shot was taken on April 12.
I love this native shrub for its clusters of yellow-green flowers that call to every pollinator for miles, and for their Chinese lantern-like green fruits that form after the flowers are done.
I am thrilled that the trilliums I added to my north slope garden a few years ago continue to re-emerge and bloom every spring for me. Nothing speaks of spring more eloquently than trilliums.
And that’s enough for today, I think. Next week, I’m planning at least two posts. One will be my annual post in observation of Earth Day (April 22), and I’m hoping to also add one on April 24 for Arbor Day. Until then, I’ll be weeding and digging and planting as fast as my creaky joints will let me. The weather seers have promised me a dry weekend, with heavy rains returning for Sunday night into Monday. That will be perfect timing — assuming all my little green charges are safely tucked into their permanent summer beds by then.
Happy gardening, ya’ll!
Blossoms abound, bird song delights ears from dawn to dark, pollen is ubiquitous — yup, I’d say spring is most definitively here. Those are petals from a redbud tree floating in that little birdbath. Here’s one of the native redbud trees adorning our landscape at the moment:
Along with all the flowers, native wildlife is suddenly more evident everywhere, especially the water-loving birds. In addition to the Wood Ducks that nest along our creek every spring, this year, a pair of Canada Geese has moved in. I see them paddling up and down the creek at dawn most mornings. They seem to have claimed the downstream end, while the Wood Ducks dabble in the waters upstream. The geese will leave as soon as their young are adept fliers. But I’ll likely see the family patrolling the floodplain for about a month before they leave.
More exciting than these waterfowl is the return of the Belted Kingfishers. Every day now, I see and hear one flying the length of our adjacent creek, calling raucously before it settles on a good fishing perch.
The water birds are here because the creek is healthier than it has been in recent springs. Water levels are back to optimal levels, thanks to abundant rains. The surrounding wetlands are very, very wet, dissected by many water-filled channels, where crayfish and frogs thrive. The cinnamon ferns have unfurled their fiddleheads, the glossy green leaves of Atamasco Lilies promise imminent flower shoots, and any day now I expect to spot Jack-in-the-Pulpits poking up out of the mud.
My two gorgeous early-blooming Magnolia acuminata varieties have been perfuming the air and delighting the eye for several weeks now. ‘Butterflies,’ as usual, was the first variety to bloom, its 25-foot tall frame covered in deep yellow blossoms.
Magnolia ‘Elizabeth,’ now 50 feet tall, started opening her paler yellow blossoms about a week after Butterflies started. She still sports many gorgeous blooms, but I fear the mini-heat wave we’re getting this weekend will finish off the display all too quickly.
In the last few days, my three Serviceberry trees have begun opening abundant pure white flower clusters. I think last summer’s rains were good for them. They’ve never been more covered in flowers. Maybe this will be the year they produce enough fruits for both the birds and me.
Over the years, I have no idea how many different kinds of daffodils I’ve added to our five acres, nor do I remember most of their names. But I do know that I made a point of planting varieties that would bloom from late winter through late spring. This succession of increasingly abundant blossoms every spring never seems too adversely affected by whimsical weather patterns. In fact, whenever spring cool spells and/or rainy weather is predicted this time of year, I routinely cut a quick bouquet of beauteous blooms to keep me company indoors until the sun returns. These varieties started blooming about the middle of last week:
The previous owner had planted forsythia, a ubiquitous southeastern spring landscape shrub. I relocated the bushes from my front door to an area near my road. Their abundant blooms seem to indicate they had no objections.
The Golden Ragwort is just starting its own parade of yellow blossoms:
The earliest blooming native deciduous azalea on the north side of my yard is about to burst into bloom. The other species/varieties are full of swelling flower bud clusters.
The spring ephemeral wildflowers I showed you in my previous post are zooming through their life cycles as promised.
In short, my five acres of green chaos is busting out all over. Alas, it’s not just the invited plants reproducing so enthusiastically right now. I am walking like a bent-over granny on evenings preceded by a day of weeding. The winter weeds got light years ahead of me in the vegetable garden area this year. Before I can plant, they must go, and that work isn’t nearly as much fun as it once was (hah!)
But the spring veggies are looking good, despite mini heat waves, heavy rains, and occasional frosts. And the summer vegetables, herbs, and flowers are growing tall and eager safely tucked in the greenhouse, waiting for more stable weather and weed-free beds.
Aye, there’s the rub — weed-free beds. I see many pollen-filled, sweaty days of joint-punishing work in front of me. But all the hard work pays off times ten when we dine on fresh-picked salads, juicy tomato-and-basil sandwiches, and green beans the likes of which you’ll never taste unless you grow them yourself.
And when I need a break from the veggie garden, I renew my resolve with a flower-filled walk around the landscape. Nothing puts a fresh spring in my step better than Spring!
They are here — the spring ephemerals — our native spring wildflowers that pop out of the forest floor, bloom, set fruit, then vanish as the forest canopy leafs out above them.
Judging by the features of my landscape and the natives that were still on it when I moved in, I suspect that most of the really lovely native ephemerals once thrived on my land — trout lilies, hepaticas, spring beauties. Two species persist. Actually, they thrive. Consider the impressive spread of bloodroots in the above photo. That’s just a small subsection of the hill overlooking my creek that they cover annually.
In the 25 years I’ve lived here, I would estimate that my bloodroot population has quadrupled in size, with no help from me, I might add. I’ve always wanted to clean up this boulder-covered slope, remove all the invasive plants, add some additional wildflower species. But, so far, I haven’t managed to do so. Luckily for me, the bloodroots don’t seem to mind that I’ve neglected them. I am treated to their glorious, pure white, many-petaled flowers for a week or two every spring.
Looking up at them from the bottom of the hill this morning, I could easily imagine them as an invading army of fairies, the still unfurled leaves as shields protecting the flower warriors.
And the best news, of course, is that these wildflowers are so poisonous that the deer never even nibble on them. Native Americans used the red roots for dyes and as medicines, but I never touch them without gloved hands. I did move a few of these to my deer-fence-enclosed north slope two years ago. They have adapted well, expanding their numbers. As you can see in the photo below, I actually take care of this group, weeding and mulching the patch every year.
Down on the floodplain, another horde of spring ephemerals rules — mayapples.
While bloodroots occur naturally on rocky, cool slopes, mayapples are inhabitants of wetlands. They welcome intermittent floods, spreading their two-leaved umbrellas in wide swaths in wetlands not overtaken by invasive exotic plant species that outcompete these petite beauties.
The first year we moved to this five-acre patch of piedmont landscape, I spied a large group of mayapples thriving on the other side of the creek that serves as the eastern boundary of our property. No mayapples lived on my land, probably because the previous owner seemed to have treated the floodplain as pasture.
So I liberated a few of these beauties and planted them on the upper reaches of our south-facing active floodplain. They only get submerged during major floods, but the mucky soil remains moist most of the year. I think perhaps they like it there.
I imagine my large patch of miniature umbrellas as a fairy recreation area. It looks ideal for fairy picnics, or perhaps a nice nap beneath the shade of these sturdy leaves. Eventually, a single white flower will appear in the notch between the two leaves. But not just yet.
The single flowers produce a little green fruit that someone decided looked apple-like. I’ve read that one can make a tart jam from the fruits, and that they are a favorite meal of turtles. But this is the only part of a mayapple that is not poisonous. Like the bloodroots on the hill, mayapples multiply unimpeded because the deer do not eat them. One year sometime back, a deer did eat about half of my patch. I always wondered if it staggered off somewhere and died, because no one came back to finish the rest, and they haven’t been nibbled on since.
Both bloodroots and mayapples are good reminders that beauty can be deadly. By all means, seek out and admire these spring ephemeral wildflowers during their brief moments in the sun. But don’t touch, and never nibble. They thrive because these hordes are well-armed indeed.
This is a note to my fellow southeastern piedmont dwellers. If you feed the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, please put out your feeders now. As my Red Buckeye demonstrates above, the native flowers the early-arriving males depend on are two weeks behind schedule. Nevertheless, the hummingbirds are arriving at their usual time — now! Until the flowers catch up, these winged jewels of our summer skies need our help. Thanks!
On behalf of winter-weary gardeners everywhere, I bid you welcome! Spring — you are here, right? It is, of course, the day of the vernal equinox, that astronomical milestone that marks your onset. I ask, because, well, you seem to be a bit more capricious than usual this year.
Yes, the plants in my yard are showing definite signs of moving toward a new growing season, as evidenced by the beautiful native wildflowers in the above photo, blooming yesterday in my yard. They are just beginning to reach peak bloom; the ones in my north garden only yesterday peeked above ground. By last year’s vernal equinox, these flowers were nearly done.
Likewise, my beautiful Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ was well past peak bloom by last year’s equinox. This year, flower buds are just now swelling, as you can see here:
The native spicebushes (Lindera benzoin) are reaching peak bloom just in time for your arrival. Last year, they maxed out two weeks earlier. I love the tiny specks of bright yellow that adorn every branch.
One non-native early bloomer — my large Winterhazel — is about a week and a half behind last year’s peak blooming moment. The photo here was taken yesterday, and you can see that the flower clusters are just now pushing out their pendant strings of sunny bells.
My other big non-native bloomers — the loropetalum shrubs — seem to be more attuned to daylight changes than temperature. Flower buds are brimming with magenta color; a few are flaunting their bright strappy petals. But I’m guessing that the full spring display will occur just about the same time it did the previous two years.
That’s all well and good, Spring. A little variation in bloom time among the ornamentals on my five acres of North Carolina Piedmont is entirely to be expected. That variability is actually part of what keeps gardening exciting; I never know when and what each season will bring.
On the other hand, your capriciousness is also a source of frustration. You see, I had a feeling you were going to take your time coming this year. So I started my spring greens in the greenhouse later than last year, planning to transplant them into their permanent beds about now. I expected later frosts, maybe even a light freeze, but because I cover the transplants in protective garden fabric, I figured they would remain unharmed.
But, Spring, you have turned my planting schedule upside down with this predicted ten-day bout of well-below-normal temperatures that includes a very hard freeze tomorrow night. The weather seers are calling for a low of 26 degrees Fahrenheit at the local airport. Here in the boonies, that will likely mean a low hovering in the mid-teens.
I can’t put tender transplants into the ground when you are bringing winter temperatures to my garden. That would be plant murder! Meanwhile, right on schedule, my onion starts arrived in the mail two days ago. Somehow, I must persuade them to be patient, because I can’t plant them yet either.
Spring, it’s getting crowded in the greenhouse. The greens are itching for permanent digs. My pots of ornamental plants that overwinter in the greenhouse are all putting out new growth, gaining size and enthusiasm for your arrival daily.
I know I can’t stop your games, Spring, so I’ll do my best to convince the greens to be patient a few days. I think I know what you’re up to. After lingering early and long last year, you don’t want to party here at all. I think you’re planning to pound us with winter weather until April arrives, and then depart almost immediately, letting summer’s temperatures sear us before the canopy trees are even properly leafed out. The models of the weather forecasters seem to agree. They are calling for above-normal temperatures for most of the US during the month of April, which is why I’m going to sow tomato and pepper seeds in the germination chamber in my greenhouse later today.
I love you, Spring, really, I do. But, frankly, your whimsy is one of the reasons my hair is as white as the new snow covering Boston — again — this week.
The vernal equinox occurred during the wee hours this morning. Astronomically speaking, that makes spring officially here. As is true for much of the United States this year, the news is entirely anticlimactic.
My early spring bloomers have not only been blooming for weeks, many of them finished almost as soon as they started, thanks to the record heat and drought that continues to plague my corner of the Piedmont in North Carolina.
Case in point: my lovely Magnolia ‘Butterflies.’ Two days after it began blooming, petal drop started. The above photo was taken three days ago. Now almost all the petals have dropped.
Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ didn’t wait her usual week after Butterflies to commence her floral display. Instead, she peaked the same day the photo above of Butterflies was taken. Here’s a shot of the whole tree. Elizabeth is a knock-out — visually and aromatically — when she is at her peak like this:
Wonder Spouse took all these photos, by the way. You may well want to click on them to enlarge them, so you can fully appreciate their quality. Here’s a close-up of Elizabeth’s flowers taken the same day as the above photo:
The Bloodroots growing on my north-east-facing slope above the creek began blooming about the same time that Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ got started. Here’s one that’s been open for a couple of days:
And here’s what most of them looked like that day:
Not to be outdone by these precocious bloomers, the first flowers of my native Pinxterbloom Azalea were nearly open the same day that the above photos were taken (March 17). That’s three weeks ahead of last year.
For the first time that I can remember, my oak trees are racing the Loblolly Pines to see which will release their pollen first. I think it may well be a tie. I cannot remember that happening before. Not ever in all the 5+ decades I’ve lived in North Carolina.
So, Vernal Equinox — welcome, I guess. The party started well before your arrival this year. And it’s already well on its way to its conclusion. I just hope that by the time the Summer Solstice arrives, my landscape doesn’t look too much like the Sahara Desert.
I told you here about some of my favorite spring ephemeral wildflowers, including Bloodroot. We have a spectacular stand of them growing on a northeast-facing slope above our creek. To my delight, they were there when we moved in, and they continue to multiply annually via seeds and tubers. Each plant produces a single exquisite anemone-like white flower that only persists for a week or two at most, depending on weather.
As soon as the petals fall, the pointed seed capsules begin to swell. Today, Wonder Spouse and I noticed that most of the Bloodroots are sporting nearly mature seed capsules. To my eye, they look like little green soldiers holding their lances at attention beside them — although I admit the lances are a tad curvy.
As soon as the capsules finish ripening and open to disperse their seeds, the lobed leaves will die back, and this now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t native wildflower will be a memory until next spring.
Long-blooming flowers certainly have appeal in the garden; they make a gardener’s life easier — fewer different plants to grow to keep the show going. Still, there’s something about the transient beauty of this delicate native that always makes my heart beat faster when the flowers appear.
And — more reliable than any calendar — when the leaves vanish, I know that spring’s song is nearly done.
Botanists call the early spring woodland wildflowers “spring ephemerals” because of their transitory natures. They emerge, bloom, set seed, and die back all before the trees above leaf out and block the sun.
As late winter eases into early spring, these beauties begin popping up in our rich piedmont woodlands. Some — like American trout-lily — can make impressive colonies. I often find them on the higher end of floodplains.
Many of my favorite early wildflowers prefer steep north-facing slopes, usually overlooking a creek. The dampness of the water combined with the naturally cooler north-slope environment encourages beauties like Hepatica. I always feel as if I’ve won a scavenger hunt when I spot one of these lovelies nestled on a steep, usually rocky hillside.
I felt like I’d won the lottery when I realized that the steep-north-east-facing slope on our property is home to a large population of one of my all-time favorite spring ephemerals — Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). A few members of the colony adorn the top of my hill, almost looking west. Groups of plants decorate the hillside all the way down to the sandy terrace that borders the creek.
Pure white petals shine like moonlight just above the brown forest floor. The flowers are quite delicate — a spring wind or rain storm will knock off all the petals almost as quickly as they appear. During calm springs, the flowers last longer — about two weeks.
Bloodroot is highly poisonous, which is why mine are thriving despite the locally huge and hungry deer population. The plant is named for its red roots, from which native Americans created a dye.
I consider the appearance of these delicate beauties on my hill to be confirmation of spring’s definite arrival. As a preview, here are a few that bloomed on our hill a few springs ago: