May is my second-favourite month, behind only September. And it’s not just that May is my birth month. It’s the month where the earth really begins to wake up, at least here in my home province of Ontario. The month where the trees start to leaf out, and the insects really begin to emerge, and the birds start to flock back, and the garden starts to fill out, and the temperatures start to rise. And the woods are all abloom with wildflowers.
Often called spring ephemerals for their fleeting appearance in the brief window between snow melt and closed canopy, most of these species have evolved to spring up relatively quickly to take advantage of the sunlight that pours through the leafless branches onto the forest floor in early spring. So many of these species start blooming before the trees are noticeably in bud. Many continue to bloom even after the leaves have started to fill out, but very few forest wildflowers start to bloom once the canopy has closed up for the summer. By that point, the forest floor is too shady for any but the most shade-tolerant of species.
I’ve already profiled one of my favourite wildflowers, the Red/Wild/Canadian Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), and I talked a bit about some of the first ones to appear in our semi-wooded yard. Here are a few more that I’ve noticed have sprung up in the forests around us over the last couple of weeks.
Early Lowbush Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium (I think; this one was challenging to ID. Some bushes were pinkish like this, some were whiteish. Growing on the rock barrens on the east side of the Park. Note the grasshopper nymph on the lefthand side, which I only noticed when editing the photo.)