From snow to flowers, this last half of April has burst into spring!
April 17th - Brown's Lake Bog
Still chilly, but things are beginning to emerge, mayapples, cutleaf toothwort, ferns, the sundews got enough sun to begin opening up.
April 17th - WW
Coming soon - more info about this park!
April 21st - Wilderness & Funk
Waters were still high - Wilderness Rd was impassible but lots of waterfowl, coots, teals, ringneck. Funk was just down enough to get to the observation parking area, not much out but skunk cabbage growing high. On the other section of Funk we did find a sora!
April 24 - Wooster Memorial Park
At last! Blooms!
April 24th - WW
In just a week so many new flowers have emerged!
April 25th - Barnes Preserve
New blooms every day!
April 27th - Brown's Lake Bog
Rising up and out in just a week!
April 27th - Barnes Preserve
April 27th - Johnson Woods
Our first visit since January and we were not disappointed! Johnson Woods' wildflower display is one of the best - colt's foot, trillium, trout lily, windflower, spring beauties, and many many others!
Wood Anemone (Anemone Quinquefolia) is a delicate spring wildflower rising up from a stalk which has basal leaves and a whorl of 3- to 5-parted leaves at its apex.
With the flower sitting on top a long stalk, it has a tendency to tremble in the breeze giving it the secondary name "Wind Flower".
Blooming April - June in wet 'mucky soil' forests.
The Rue-anemone is a delicate woodland perennial, blooming between March and June in moist wooded areas. At the top of the stalk is a lacy whorl of 3-parted, dark-green leaves above which rises delicate, reddish-brown stems bearing pink or white blossoms.
It is similar to Wood Anemone, except for the numerous flowers and rounded leaflets. The leaves of Rue Anemone are similar to those of the meadow-rues. There is also a False Rue-anemone which has similar flowers but is much taller and has three sets of deeply lobed (three fingered) leaves. Grows in large groups.
Along with knowing all the beautiful native wildflowers, it's also important to know the invasive and damaging species (lesser celandine, garlic mustard, some honeysuckle species, japanese hops, etc) and how/when to remove them. These species are known to do damage to the surrounding plants as well as pose a threat to the native wildlife.
Lesser Celandine can be found in open woods, waste areas, meadows, and floodplains preferring sandy soil. It closely resembles the Marsh Marigold and is often misidentified as such.
To tell the difference between the two it's important to know the native Marsh Marigold has only 5-9 petals where as the Lesser Celandine has 8-12, and the leaves of the Marsh Marigold are round sometimes kidney shaped where as the Lesser Celandine which has more of a heart shape.
Marsh Marigolds tend to stay in small bunches and do not have the same sort of underground tuber system that the Lesser Celandine have.
If left to go it will completely blanket the area displacing many native plant species, especially those with the similar spring-flowering life cycle. Some examples of native spring ephemerals which become choked out by the Lesser Celandine include bloodroot, wild ginger, spring beauty, harbinger-of-spring, twinleaf, squirrel-corn, trout lily, trilliums, Virginia bluebells, and many, many others. These plants provide critical nectar and pollen for native pollinators, and fruits and seeds for other native insects and wildlife species. Because Lesser Celandine emerges well in advance of the native species, it has a developmental advantage which allows it to establish and overtake areas rapidly.
How to get rid of this species:
First, make 100% sure you have properly identified the right species before you do anything else.
Due to the system of underground tubers with which it reproduces, hand-pulling is not recommended (unless you have a trowel and time to dig and pull every tuber along the system).
According to the National Park Service:
"While manual methods are possible for some (small) infestations, the use of systemic herbicide is more effective because it kills the entire plant including the roots and minimizes soil disturbance.
In order to have the greatest negative impact to celandine and the least impact to desirable native wildflower species, herbicide should be applied in late winter-early spring, generally February through March. Start applications prior to flowering and up until about 50 percent of the plants are in flower, around April 1, then stop. After that, control success declines and many more native wildflowers have emerged that could be killed by spray. Native amphibians would also be emerging and could be harmed. Apply a 1 to 1.5% rate of a 53.8% active ingredient glyphosate isopropylamine salt (e.g., Rodeo® which is labeled for use in wetland areas), mixed with water and a non-ionic surfactant to foliage, avoiding application to anything but the celandine. Glyphosate is systemic; that is, the active ingredient is absorbed by the plant and translocated to the roots, eventually killing the entire plant. The full effect on the plant may take 1-2 weeks. Retreatment the following year will likely be needed. Applications can be made during the winter season as long as the temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above, and no rain is anticipated for at least 12 hours. Because glyphosate is non-specific, spray should be directed such that it contacts only fig buttercup and does not drift onto desirable native plants. To minimize impacts to sensitive-skinned frogs and salamanders, some experts recommend applying herbicide in March and then switching to manual methods.
For small infestations, fig buttercup may be pulled up by hand or dug up using a hand trowel or shovel. It is very important to remove all bulblets and tubers. Due to the abundant tiny bulblets and tubers, all material must be bagged up, removed from the site and disposed properly in a landfill or incinerator. A major consideration when manually removing invasive plants like this is the disturbance to the soil which can encourage the target invasive as well provide openings for invasion by other exotic species. For these reasons, manual and mechanical removal is probably inappropriate for larger infestations in high quality natural areas."
(More info from the NPS can be found here https://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/rafi1.htm )
Rising up 8-12 inches tall you wouldn't think it'd be easy to miss this spring wildflower, but the fine stalk lined with delicate tiny cluster of flowers is easy to pass by..
Found mainly in wet, muddy, areas the Bishop's Cap (also known as twoleaf miterwort) rises on a sturdy, unbranched stem with two identical leaves halfway up. "Each white flower is a less than than ¼" across; it consists of 5 white petals, 10 yellow stamens, a pair of styles, a greenish white calyx with 5 short lobes, and a single-celled ovary." The petals are deeply pinnatifid, which provides them with a snowflake-like appearance.
Okay, so "technically" this isn't a wildflower as it doesn't have any true blooming parts, BUT it can be found in many of our local forests (and it's fruiting parts are festive and fluffy), let's learn more about it!
This woodland sedge also goes by the name seersucker sedge. It is a native evergreen that can be found across the eastern half of the United States, however it is on the endangered plants list for New Jersey and Minnesota. It grows best in shady areas from rich, moist soils. At its base you can find a reddish-purple coloring. Late spring it will begin to produce seeds.
Violets: we see them in our yards, in fields, anywhere we go in spring there's some sort of violet. How many different indigenous species are there in the state of Ohio? That is up for much debate. Give or take, there are at least 30 different indigenous types, if we included the hybrids, the non-native introduced, the others in the Violaceae family, we're looking at closer to 135!
Ones that I've found you can see below.
The common blue violet can be found all over in fields, lawns, woodlands, and when foraging in your backyard this flower can be used to liven up salads!
That's right, another yummy flower that you can eat right from your yard (reminder: only if you don't spray noxious chemicals on your lawn! Otherwise you could become very, very sick.).
Gather the flowerheads -I recommend the blue violets because they're so plentiful-, just about a handful, wash gently, toss in any salad. This adds a light peppery taste and a whole lot of color! Or use as a garnish on the side. This'll liven up any plate!
As spring wakes up the woods, and hiking/outdoor season really begins, I'd like to bring up a few basic guidelines to ensure you and your fellow hikers will have a great time outside.
The old saying "Take only photos, leave only footprints" holds true:
- don't litter
- do clean up your doggy's do do
- leash your dog, while your dog may be great, you never know how it'll respond to another dog or how that dog will respond to it, also a number of people have a fear of strange dogs so to avoid all issues, please leash fido
- don't pick the wildflowers, let everyone on the trails see their beauty
- don't play loud music: I never thought I would have to list this one but it's here for a reason...
- do stay on the marked trails to help prevent erosion and damaging delicate plant life
- do greet your fellow hikers, it's just good manners
- do walk through muddy puddles, walking around them widens the trail and erodes the land around
- do take lots of photos and keep wonderful memories
How to have the best time:
- prepare for the weather
- layer up! Winter takes more layers, spring and fall less, and summer even fewer. If it looks like rain take a poncho. Hiking through all the different elements can be rewarding if properly prepared for.
- wear appropriate footwear for the specific trail you'll be on
- eg: paved tennishoes -vs- muddy waterproof boots
- keep an open mind
- sometimes you'll see flowers, animals, rainbows, whatever, sometimes you won't
- be present
- put your phones away, this is time for you
- allow yourself these few minutes, hours, etc to be completely in the moment, forget about your to-do list, about that traffic jam, about your boss, about all of life's expectations and just listen to the sound of the Earth.
The month of April we see fast changes happening in the natural world, things emerge, bloom, and fall back in the blink of an eye (and then get covered in snow again like today). I'll admit, after a month passes it's hard for me to recall the sounds of water seeping through the soil, the crisp breeze skimming across the water, and the smell of the soil on the first warm day, so these posts will be happening more often!
April 2nd Barnes Preserve
A round of snow came through overnight, as the day progressed the sun came out and warmed up just enough to begin the melting. A large patch of coltsfoot started to open to the sun's warmth, you can also see its leaves for which the plant is named. Ever determined, the turtle took to its log welcoming the sun back and coaxing it to stay.
April 11th Wooster Memorial Park
The recent heavy rains and warmer temperatures have alerted the forest to spring's arrival! At last we're seeing spring beauties and hepatica blooming, the trillium are stretching up from the ground, even the trout lily are cutting their way through the leaves. More details with each image.
April 12th Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Beaver Marsh Area
Arriving early at CVNP (we attended the volunteer orientation) we had an hour to reacquaint ourselves with one of our favorite areas, Beaver Marsh. Two years away and it still felt like a homecoming. Lots of blooms happening on the day we were there (see images for id) and an all around lovely day at 70*.
April 16th Barnes Preserve
The cold winds and snow were back making this a very quick walk. Although it was cold this day, the plants have been taking full advantage of the few previous days which were much, much warmer. The cutleaf toothwort is starting to arrive and bud and looking along the trail you can see everything turning a shade of green!
Those of you who know me, or who have read this blog for any length of time, know how interested I am in the phenology of things. Watching the cycles of plants, the intricate dance between temperature, precipitation, and sunlight, noting the ebb and flow of everything, it really helps put things in perspective for me.
We're at one of the big junctions in the ebb and flow of the forest, we're on the edge where you can still look behind you and see the traces of winter - the view through the trees, the brown blanket cast over the ground, and today the snow falling from the sky, but you can also look ahead and see the buds bursting with life on those same trees, sneaking up through the leaf litter the spring ephemerals are up and preparing for the next sunny day to show off their flowers, and if you listen the peepers can be heard in the vernal pools and the birds have changed their songs.
Today, even with the snow, the wind, the dark sky, there's no mistaking spring is here. My current phenology study is of Barnes Preserve, starting in September I've photographed the changes up to this point and have tried to write a little something about what was found/happening/changing at that time. I want to pause right now and reflect on where we have been because if past projects have taught me anything, the next photo will be of a lush forest.
The current project as well as other phenology studies of mine can be found under the "One Year Studies" tab or at the link HERE.
Ah, the humble dandelion. Speckling lawns with golden spots. Calling to mind summers spent in the grass collecting bugs and flowers, nary a worry (except perhaps that bee that wants in your flower crown).
The Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officianale) is not native to North America, it was brought from Eurasia for its medicinal qualities. It can be identified by its basal rosette of long, oval, deeply lobed leaves from which a fuzzy stem leads up to a round yellow flower roughly 1-2 inches in diameter. There are two sets of bracts on the flower, the inner bracts form almost a tube around the ovaries of the flower, the outer bracts curve sharply downward toward the stem.
Can be found in yards, roadside, fields, other regularly disturbed areas. Rarely found in deep forests or other specialized ecosystems.
Although many think this plant a nuisance, it is in fact a very important early food source for bees and other pollinators. Beginning their bloom season March-May they are often the first food source for newly emerging bees, flies, beetles, and butterflies. It is so important these early months to let them grow in your yard, just think of the pollinators that'll stay around to pollinate your garden plants! I like to think we all know it's best not to spray chemicals on your lawn, but incase someone missed that memo: please don't spray chemicals on your lawn, let the bees and butterflies enjoy nature's flowers... let's be honest, they use your lawn more than you do! When mowing in early spring when these flowers are out, raise the mower up an extra inch and give these pollinators a chance.
If you don't care about insects, then think of yourself. Dandelion has been used by humans for hundreds of years for many purposes...
On the FDA's list of safe foods, dandelion is regularly used in a variety of medicines or a variety of ailments. Treatment of jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatitis, and liver disease, its properties are said to detoxify the liver as well as reduce the side effects of prescription medications. It's also used to treat infections, swelling, water retention, gallbladder issues, pneumonia, stimulate bile flow.
All of that and it is free for the taking (provided you didn't just spray noxious chemicals on your yard).
One of my favorite ways to enjoy dandelions (besides watching the bees) is "sweet and sour dandelions" - like sweet and sour cabbage but replace the cabbage with young dandelion greens!
Others enjoy taking the heads and making dandelion wine.
It can also be made into a lukewarm tea for health, and used as a salad green.
No, this is not an invasion of the pod people, this is a Wild Ginger plant.
The Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) is a native wildflower to the Eastern US blooming in early spring then creating a wonderful ground covering later in the season. This has made it an attractive plant for home gardens that get a lot of shade.
Remember, it is illegal to harvest wildflowers from local or national parks/forests without obtaining a permit! If harvesting from private property, only do so with the express permission of the landowner. Support your local native plant nursery by purchasing plants that have not been wild collected is a very good option.
Hidden in at the base of the two broad leaves is a tiny purple/brown flower. "The color and the location of the flower have an unusual and interesting story. The flower evolved to attract small pollinating flies that emerge from the ground early in the spring looking for a thawing carcass of an animal that did not survive the winter. By lying next to the ground flower is readily found by the emerging flies. The color of the flower is similar to that of decomposing flesh. Whether these flies pollinate the flower or not is in some dispute. Never the less they do enter the flower to escape the cold winds of early spring and to feast upon the flowers pollen. Some of the pollen attaches to their bodies and is taken with them when they visit the next flower."
The root of this plant gives off a ginger-like aroma, but it is not recommended for consumption. It is a completely different plant from the ginger root which you can purchase at the store (which is safe for consumption). The leaves of this plant may also cause irritation (which I found out the hard way) with a light nettle-like sting.
Look for broad pointed pairs of leaves in shady/partly shady wooded areas, to identify follow the stems to the base to see the unmistakably unique flower of this awesome wildflower.
Usually I separate individual flowers for the spotlight series, but the three below have such similarly shaped flowers, are all part of the mint family, and can be found nearby blooming about the same time, I though it would be best to show them together so you can see the similarities and differences side by side.
Purple flowers you may find almost everywhere you go. What are they? How can you tell them apart? Why are they everywhere?
You will find the first two blooming soon in a field nearby.
Known by many other names- ground-ivy, gill-over-the-ground, alehoof, tun hoof, cats foot, field balm, and run-away-roin, is a regular in fields, yards, gardens, waste areas, really anywhere being a non-native invasive species to North America.
This plant grows low to the ground (rarely rising up past an inch or two unless it's creeping over another plant or rock). It can be differentiated from Henbit (not pictured, I have yet to find a specimen nearby) by the scalloped palmate leaves whereas Henbit has the same scalloping but the leaf goes the whole way around the stem (whorled).
Ground ivy was once used as a flavoring and clearing agent in beer brewing before it was replaced by hops in the 17th century (up til then hops was considered dangerous).
It has also been used to cure a wide variety of ailments...
...disorders of the bladder, kidneys, digestive tract, gout, coughs, colds, ringing in the ears, asthma, jaundice, headaches, and as an astringent and diuretic!
Yes, this sounds like a delicious condiment but it is in fact a highly invasive non-native plant.
About the plant.
"Garlic mustard is a biennial herb. It begins as a rosette of leaves in the first year, overwinters as a green rosette of leaves, flowers and fruits in the second year, and then dies. First-year rosettes consist of kidney-shaped, garlic-smelling leaves, the second-year plant grows a stem up to 4 feet tall with triangular, sharply-toothed leaves. The small, four-petaled flowers are white and grow in clusters at the top of the stem. Garlic mustard produces large quantities of seeds which can remain viable for seven years or more." This species can survive in bright to dim locations, wet or dry soils. It is resilient and can grow anywhere.
What makes this plant so bad?
Crowds out native plant species by carpeting the forest floor and not allowing access to light for native species.
This plant sits in the top 10 most invasive species in Ohio list.
Poses as a place for butterflies to lay eggs, but is toxic to caterpillars and has been killing off the West Virginia White Butterfly.
What can I do about it?
Eradicating garlic mustard is easy work, but takes time. The ultimate goal in removing garlic mustard is to prevent seed development and spreading until the existing seed bank is depleted. Unluckily for us, this may take 2- 5 years in any confined area. Cutting the flowering stems at ground level and pulling plants before they set seed is one method that can be done in smaller areas, but may be too labor intensive for large patches. It's important to know when pulling garlic mustard you should always make sure that the taproot is completely removed or the plant will re-Garlic mustard its sprout. All cutting should be bagged, dried and then burned.
Many local parks have 'Garlic Mustard Pulls' this time of year. Check with your local parks for opportunities to volunteer!
Generally this time of year (early spring) walking around cool damp woods near creeks or streams you might catch a glimpse of a shiny, bright yellow little (about 1inch) flower hidden amongst the old leaves and beginnings of new plant growth. This is more than likely a Swamp Buttercup - Ranunculus septentrionalis (or if it's taller and the stem is covered in bristles, a Bristly Buttercup or Ranunculus hispidus)
Some other common names:
Bachelor Button, Blister Plant, Bristly Buttercup, Butter Daisy, Crazy Weed, Crowfoot, Gold Knot, Hispid Buttercup, Marsh Buttercup, Northern Swamp Buttercup, Pilewort, Rough Buttercup, Spearwort, Swamp Crowfoot, and Three-leaved Buttercup, Three-leaved Crowfoot, Wood Buttercup.
Swamp Buttercup, as well as other members of the Genus Ranunculus, had some folklore associated with this plant. The name of Ranunculus may have also originated from a Libyan boy of that same name. This boy wore green and yellow silk and liked to sing. One day, some wood nymphs got tired of his singing and turned him into a flower.
Buttercups in general had other stories as well. Farmers sometimes rubbed the yellow flowers over the cows’ udders or hung the flowers over their barn doors in hopes of producing golden yellow cream. If a person placed one of the yellow flowers under their smooth chin and it reflected the flower’s glow, then that person loved butter. Some people believed that smelling the flower or placing it next to your neck under a full moon would drive you insane (lucky for us the full moon was a few days ago!).
In Ohio we have eight different species of Trillium: T. navale (snow or dwarf trillium), T. grandiflorum (great white trillium-see photo above), T. sessile (toad shade/toad trillium), T. recurvatum (prairie trillium), T. erectum (red trillium-stinking trillium), T. undulatum(painted trillium), T. flexipes (drooping trillium), and T. cernuum (nodding trillium) - this last one is potentially extinct from Ohio's borders being a northern most, cool liking trillium, it is thought to have migrated north (into the lake).
Only one of these species can be found in all 88 Counties - The Great White Trillium - our state's official wildflower.
Below you can see bud to bloom of the Trillium grandiflorum, as well as a special find - Trillium flexipes (Drooping Trillium) that I found last year in Ashland County!
A good reminder, be it if you're impatiently waiting for wildflowers to bloom (hi), or maybe you're pushing something in your own life that would do much better if you relaxed on it.
Everything will happen in its own time, sometimes we feel if we do more, push ourselves, it'll happen faster, but if it's not time, it's just not time.
It's okay to be at rest, to trust that everything will unfold exactly as it is suppose to, no sooner, no later.
Today take a deep breath, repeat this mantra, and have a beautiful day.
Discover new and interesting things about the world around you.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who spends her time exploring and learning about the unique history and nature in North East Ohio. She lives with her husband and cat in Wooster where she is also a family portrait and nature photographer as well as grows and cans her own vegetables. When she's not doing that, yoga and embroidery (not at the same time) are other things she enjoys.