I suppose it must simply be because of this early spring we’ve experienced this winter, all the snow gone by mid-March, but I seem to be getting ahead of myself this year. I was absolutely convinced that by this time last year the slope leading down to the water at the lake house had been carpeted in wildflowers. That I hadn’t yet seen any wildflowers here I attributed to the fact that we were slightly farther north, didn’t have same sort of nice exposed eastern slope, and – yes, I’ll admit it – I still miss the lake house and have a slightly biased view of it having been a better-quality habitat. Or richer in biodiversity, anyway. I hadn’t seen any evergreen hepatica leaves in our forest here, and so I just figured all those lovely spring wildflowers that I seemed to remember popping up at the cusp of April, the hepaticas and spring beauties and Dutchman’s breeches, must not occur around here.
I’m slowly coming to realize that, as much as I loved that spot, and it did perhaps have a slightly higher number of provincially rare species, much of what was found there I can also find here. I went out into the woods yesterday afternoon to see if there were any signs of spring ephemerals yet. Any at all, and I was fully prepared to not find anything, since, after all, I hadn’t spotted any hepatica and it should be visible as soon as the snow’s melted. I was pleased when I came across a patch of Trout Lily in one of the little patches of trees left in the middle of the first meadow. Just the leaves so far, the flowers will be a while to come yet. But it will still be nice to have that splash of colour on the forest floor.
I wandered through another patch of trees without seeing anything, and then ducked into an area that’s effectively just part of the expansive woods that fill the neighbour’s property, distinct only in that a cedar rail fence runs through it, half a dozen meters from the edge of the trees, defining the boundary between the two properties. I found some more Trout Lily, and then, a short distance away, some frilly leaves that I recognized at once. Dutchman’s Breeches! I looked more carefully, and sure enough there was another patch, and then another. One or two even had flower stems with half-formed flower buds on them, promising of good things to come. Oh, how exciting!
I pushed on, looking more carefully now. Probably they hadn’t been present a week ago when I wandered through, or maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right spots then, but now as I looked I discovered there was quite a bit of the wildflower. In one spot, on a fairly steep east-facing slope, there were even a couple of plants with nearly fully-formed flowers. That’ll teach me to doubt!
I found a few other things while searching the forest floor, too. I turned up two trilliums, this one with a flower bud. I don’t think of trilliums as blooming until two or three weeks after this other stuff, so this individual seems quite early to me. It looks like it will be a white flower – perhaps not a great surprise, as that’s the most common colour in our forests.
In a few spots there were these small, tapered leaves, growing in pairs, scattered in patches. I didn’t know what they were and I walked right by them at first. Then one caught my eye: it had flower buds! Looking more closely, it turned out that these were Spring Beauties, not yet opened. Another I hadn’t expected to see here! Neither the Dutchman’s Breeches nor the Spring Beauties grew in the mixed-wood forest where I grew up, and I’d come to regard them as a Carolinian species. I knew that pseudo-Carolinian habitat extended up from the Kingston area along the Frontenac Arch, where we were at the lake house, but figured we were too far north here for them, especially when there weren’t any hepaticas. I know, I know – I hinged quite a lot on the presence or absence of those hepaticas.
And finally, a flowering grass, which I almost passed by before I realized it was blooming. I’m not sure what species this is; I tried looking it up, but without success. There are just so many species, and searches are complicated by all the cultivated varieties available for gardens. So it will have to remain unidentified.
This afternoon I looked up my wildflower post from last year. Sure that it had been in the first week of April, I was surprised to discover I’d posted it on April 17. The photos used in it were taken on April 14. So we really are right on time this year.