Early Spring Ephemerals

Easter Weekend, April 4 and 5, 2015


It was a cool and breezy weekend and we have been hard-pressed to link a good few days together with temperatures above normal, and spring is progressing slowly.


It was good kite flying weather, and Harper enjoyed watching.


It was a beautiful day with family, as we celebrated Easter.


After Sunday Mass, Mark and I went to Carderock and the C&O Canal to look for early spring wildflowers (ephemerals) and especially for the possibility of twinleaf and round-lobed hepatica, neither of which I’ve ever seen in bloom.  Carderock is just up river (the Potomac), from Washington, DC, in Maryland, and near Mather Gorge and Great Falls.

Upon parking we saw an Easter bunny molesting a child in a picnic grove, as a little girl watched on, confused by the scene.


We walked a portion of the Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River in a region popular for rope climbers.  We were greeted with spicebush in bloom.


The most aspect dominant wildflower in bloom today was spring beauty Claytonia virginica. 


We saw many large aggregates of the highly ephemeral Virginia bluebells Mertensia virginica, which will likely peak in about a week from now.


Looking away from the trail edges, we were able to find several pockets of toadshade, aka sessile trillium Trillium sessile that looks like it will need at least another week before it begins to bloom.


Wild ginger Asarium canadense is up.  It’s flower, a purple, pipe-looking appendage should bloom soon.  If you look close on the forest floor, up under the ginger leaves, you can see the swollen, fuzzy pod that will become the flower bloom.


Well, this is early.  The first flowers of patches of wild blue phlox Phlox divaricata. 


The beautiful Dutchman’s breeches Dicentra cucullaria was in flower.  We also saw emerging squirrel corn and yellow corydalis, which have similar leaves.


Cut-leaf toothwort Dentaria laciniata was observed, up and away from the river, on warm, sunny slopes.


The plant of the day, which was locally abundant, was ramps, aka wild leek Allium tricocum.  Ramps are a mountain species and are somewhat uncommon in Maryland, occurring in Garrett and Washington Counties, then with some washing down river into Montgomery County.  Mark and I saw many large aggregates of this plant throughout the riparian woods.  The ephemeral leaves will wither and then give way to the white, leek, onion flower in a few weeks from now.


For the purpose of science, Mark and I picked one.  We ate the white scallion section and the leaves.  Absolutely fresh and savory, with a touch of a bite and distinct aftertaste, a most delicious onion.


The trail that we were on courses through rocky ridge and valley.  We stopped at an overlook and watched this gentleman reach the top of the rock face.  Once achieved, he was ready to rappel back down.

We saw spring ruderals in flower, including bird’s-eye speedwell, purple dead nettle, ivy-leaved speedwell, hairy bittercress, gill-over-the-ground and henbit.  We also saw harbinger-of-spring, lesser celandine, red maple and skunk cabbage in flower.  Emerging and in leaf, included trout lily, common blue violet, rue anemone, garlic mustard, golden ragwort, bedstraw, mayapple, stinging nettle, poison hemlock, common chickweed and cranefly orchid leaves.  We also observed numerous patches of last year’s wood oats.  Paw paw looks ready to leaf and flower too.

A beautiful day.  I’d say this trail will be a burst of flower within the next two and three weeks.  The next six weeks should be fantastic, wherever you walk in the woods!  Unfortunately no twinleaf, the plant I was most hoping to find.