What’s in Flower this Week?
I like when I have more field days than office days, in any given week, which was the case this week. I therefore had a chance to see a goodly number of plant species of what’s in bloom in central Maryland for the third week of April. The only downside is that I have poison ivy rash on my neck, hands and arms, I guess from laying down on the ground to get photos from the perspective of the forest floor.
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) is unique in that it only has two leaves and one flower, which grows in the axil of the leaves. Infertile plants are un-branched, producing a single leaf from the stalk. The large twin umbrella-like leaves of the mayapple are showy and conspicuous. They remain closed as the stem lengthens, unfolding 6 to 8-inches across when the plant has reached its nearly one-foot in height. The solitary nodding, white-colored flower grows in the axil of the leaves and has 6 to 9 waxy white petals, with many stamens.
The nodding fruit is large, fleshy, lemon-shaped berry. Mayapple colonizes by rhizomes, forming dense mats in damp, open woods. The leaves, roots, and seeds are poisonous if ingested in large quantities, but the ripe, golden-yellow fruits (may-pops) can be eaten.
Mayapple is one of my favorite of the spring ephemerals to see having emerged from the ground.
I next observed some wonderful and large aggregates of Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius).
What a delicate burst of flowering!
At another location, and within a 50-foot square, I counted three orchid species, Puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale), cranefly orchid and showy orchid, with a count of twelve puttyroot leaves, several of which will flower later this summer, along the with cranefly orchids. The showy’s are expected to be in bloom next week, as their buds were just showing a white color.
Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza claytoni), with its tiny white flowers.
Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) was beginning to wane, as peak flowering may have been last week. I hear that paw paw is notorious for not being able to pollinate well, to subsequently produce fruit. I understand that people in-the-know will hang a dead fish in paw paw groves when flowering, to help bring in fly pollinators, as the flower has a meat color and a neutral to slightly unpleasant odor.
Kidney-Leaf Buttercup (Ranunculus arbortivus).
Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium), with leaves that resemble cherry leaves, and hence the Latin “prunifolium.”
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) flowers in March, and I saw several that were beginning to show swollen seed heads.
Great-Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera) brightened-up the forest floor at many locations.
Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa), emerging from the ground.
One of the special finds this week was a patch of about fifteen Yellow Trilium (Trillium luteum), well into a forested natural area. The natural range of this trillium is in dispute, with a near equal number of sources documenting this plant as endemic to Maryland, and others suggesting that the natural range is west and south of Virginia, with the mother-load in Tennessee, and thus historically introduced to Maryland. This is all above my pay grade, and is still a great observation none the less.
Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), was staring back at me, while at a formal forestry data station. The snake had a bulge in his center and was sunning on the steep slopes of a third-order stream, and with no desire to move, having recently eaten well, and basking in the warmth of a southern exposed bank.
Squawroot (Conopholis americana), also known as American Cancer-Root is a perennial non-photosynthesizing parasite that lives on red oak roots, drawing-off nutrients and energy. These flowers will open in late May and into June.
The native, showy Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea).
Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) was observed with regularity, and this particular specimen was in flower much later than the others, which finished-up flowering weeks ago, possibly because the sighting was on the cooler, north-facing steep slopes.
Common Fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus).
Other plants that I observed as flowering through these few days of field work included jack-in-the-pulpit, spring beauty, yellow, white and blue violet, common cinquefoil, flowering dogwood, Virginia bluebells, trout lily, Dutchman’s breeches, wild ginger, skunk cabbage, blackberry, sassafras and common greenbriar.
Plants not flowering included striped wintergreen, false nettle, arrow arum, wild comfrey, wild geranium, moon vine, blue flag, false Solomon seal, true Solomon seal, bellwort, lady’s thumb, horsetail, two species of Oxalis, round-lobed hepatica, black cohosh, arrow-leaved and halberd-leaved tearthumb and several morrels at peak!
One plant I did not expect to find but saw in the floodplains was Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquelfolia), which I typically associate with the Piedmont, but our study site was on the coastal plain.
What ever this Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) was chomping on, possibly desiccated fruit, he really liked.
One of the job’s on this project site was to determine the presence/absence of a heron rookery (nursery).
I was able to confirm ten active nests. Once I got near the site, I stood still for minutes, to allow natural activity to return.
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) typically nest in high quality, isolated and forest interior areas, and absolutely do not like to be disturbed.
The documentation was important to confirm for our client, which will be used in updating natural resources management planning.
Heron nest in the tops of super-story trees, and typically near quality feeding areas (swamps, marshes).
Heron require uninterrupted flight paths high up in the trees, as they are such a large, ungainly bird in initial flight. Whitewash was quite apparent below the noisy nests.
What a great few days in the field.