Summertime flowers generally won’t be found in the forests. They just don’t get enough sunlight among the trees.
It was a cloudy day when I took a walk at one of my favorite haunts and it seemed pretty dark on the parts of the trail that meandered through the forest. Cooler, but dark. Surprisingly dark when looking through the camera lens!
It’s technically the third week of Summer now and the heat and humidity will have you feeling every sticky note of it.
I did find one new plant flowering in several places at Little Buffalo State Park along the Mill Race Trail and around the Day Use Area. It was a tall plant reaching over 6 feet in a couple of spots.
Places where it was seen flowering profusely were areas receiving lots of light from above, not among the trees in the forest. If the canopy was thick, there were no flowers that I could see.
Bloodroot is one of the prettiest flowers you’ll find in the woodlands come Spring. Some may think it’s too simple or plain having only eight or so petals of white, but inspect it a little closer and you may come to think differently.
In this photo I liked how the sunlight shined through the petals. Note water reflecting the sun’s ray on the upper right. This bloodroot patch grows adjacent to Little Buffalo Creek.
In the month of May Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, may be hard to find blooming as it usually flowers by the middle of April, at least in Central Pennsylvania. Areas to our south will see it bloom in very early Spring.
Flower photos taken 17 April 2016. (Click on any small image to see a larger view.)
In side view the small bloodroot flowers look like little tulips before they fully open their petals to the sunshine.
When the flowers open their blossoms to the sun the many paddle-like yellow stamens can be seen. Note the filament of spider silk attached to the flower bud covering.
An early Spring-blooming plant is well into its seed-making time. Most trees are still growing out their leaves now in the middle of May, but the canopy is filling in fast.
The Spring Ephemeral we’re talking about is Cut-Leaved Toothwort, or Cutleaf Toothwort, Cardamine concatenata, which Peterson’s Wildflower Guide calls Dentaria laciniata – it’s an older name than the Cardamine moniker.
Note: DNA testing has revealed what scientists believe is the true lineage of plants, so older field guides may specify names for plants that may no longer apply. A great place to learn of multiple names for the same plant is the USDA Plants site. Just look under the synonyms tab for your particular flower. In this instance we see four names for our toothwort friend, excluding varieties that is.
(Photos start 24 March 2016 from Central Pennsylvania. Click on any small image to see a larger view.)
First flower of cut-leaved toothwort appeared on March 24. Note the plant on the right – you can see a single thick stem rising up from under the brown oak leaves, a layer of “cut leaves” and a topping of a dangling cluster of flowers. The plant on the left has no flowers and just one set of leaves.
Cutleaf toothwort is identified by a whorl of three leaves each with three narrow segments having distinct teeth. At 8-15 inches tall it’s found growing in rich woods and bottom lands.
As the days went on more plants arose from the leaf litter for a total of six plants, four of them flowering. The flower buds first show a light pink color before opening into a white four-parted blossom.
So, they say variety is the spice of life. That’s a mantra I try to live by…why settle for mediocrity?
Plants do make the news once in a while, but after you read the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew report on the state of the world’s plants, you might wonder why we don’t hear about plant news every day.
A cover story by the BBC specifies that, “Scientists have estimated that there are 390,900 plants known to science.” An amazing 369,000 of that total are flowering plants!
Wow! 391K is a LOT of vascular plants. Roughly 2,000 new plants are described each and every year, so the tally will climb up from there. The number of plants and their identities were gleaned from several different databases which are specified in the report.
A very interesting and thought-provoking part of the 84-page report is the information highlighting the uses to which humans put about 10% of the known plants.
Plant uses were categorized and the number of plants in each category as follows:
human food – 5,538
medicines – 17,810
fuels – 1,621
materials – 11,365
animal food – 3,649
poisons – 2,503
social uses – 1,382
gene sources – 5,338
environmental uses – 8,140
invertebrate food – 683
Medicines, materials and food sources top the list with the most plants in service. Many of the plants highlighted here on wildeherb.com could fit into multiple categories, especially environmental uses, medicines, invertebrate food and social uses.
Climate change, habitat loss and invasive plants are discussed in the report as are plant diseases, extinction risks and the global trade in plants.
Have you ever smelled a sassafras flower? They have the yummiest lemony-citrus scent. You might have to wait until next year by now, so put it on your list of things to do next April or whenever the trees are starting to grow their new leaves in your area.
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum, trees live in the Eastern United States. The trees are either male or female, so their flowers have different purposes and therefore different looks. It seems that the male trees out number the females because it took me a while to locate a female tree. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve even seen one.
(Photos taken 22 & 30 April 2016. Click on any image for a larger view.)
The female flowers seem simple compared to the male flowers which look rather bushy due to their nine stamens.
Female flowers appeared more symmetrical having six sterile stamens, which are short and fat compared to the male stamens but of the same golden yellow-orange color. Each stamen lies at the base of a pale yellow petal and they form a circle around the central pistil.
The pistil reminds me of a flower bud vase being bulbous at the base and having a tube that extends upward ending in a circular shape. The tip of the pistil appears white in this photo.
Flowers are held on long stalks that are retained during fruit formation so the fruits are borne on these stalks that measure an inch and a half long.
The flowers themselves are small and measure less than a half inch across.
In mid-to-late April trillium flowers bloom all over the place at Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve in Lancaster County, PA.
When approaching the trail and as you drive on the dirt road look to either side and you’ll likely notice the trillium plants by their huge three leaves. The flowers are usually in a dangling way so that you might only see the side or top view of the mostly white flowers.
Near the beginning of the trail look up the slope to the left and you’ll see lots of bluebells and among them the white trilliums. So many flowers in one spot!
Susquehanna Trillium were especially thick on the upper slope about halfway down the trail.
Their red centers weren’t always visible so I’m left wondering were the all-white ones different varieties? They seemed to have a smaller stature, too.
Dangling head of the trillium flower. Three light green sepals situated in between the curled back petals.
A helping hand shows the red interior of the bloom.
The predominant trillium at Shenk’s Ferry is known as the Susquehanna Trillium, Trillium flexipes, which according to Peterson’s Wildflower Guide is also known as Drooping Trillium.
A distinctive feature are its creamy white anthers which differentiates it from a similar species called Nodding Trillium, T. cernuum, which has pink anthers.
Red trilliums, T. erectum, are rare at this location – at least in their red variety – the smaller all-white one above is probably the white variety, but this one was blooming when this photo was taken, 20 April 2016. A fellow photographer indicated where he saw it so I was on the lookout on my return walk down the trail. It was a happy thing to see the single one blooming – even if it was in the shade!
If you’re interested in learning all about Trilliums, including how to garden with trilliums, the book you want is on Amazon: Trilliums.
Trillium, wild phlox and bluebells show off in great numbers at Shenk’s Ferry in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania during early Spring. These plants are quite noticeable due to their pretty blooms and their size. Each one reaches at least a foot tall and their flowers are held high for all to appreciate.
Some other spring-flowering plants aren’t as showy as they’re smaller or they just blend in better with their habitats. They shouldn’t be missed though as they have their own sort of beauty. The violets are low-growing, as are the wild ginger, Dutchman’s breeches and squirrel corn, and some of the “weeds” have tiny flowers that are easy to pass by.
A couple of plants were growing specifically near the rocky areas and they’re easy to miss if you don’t look up. As you drive down the dirt road to the Wildflower Preserve entrance take a few moments to inspect the rocky outcrops and higher rock ledges where you’re likely to see Early Saxifrage and Wild Columbine.
Red Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, was just beginning to flower when we were at Shenk’s Ferry in late April. There were many more buds to open yet. Just look among the rock faces at either end of the glen. Apparently, the wild red columbine likes to be in the damp or among the minerals as might be associated with rocky areas.
Wild columbine was growing near bluebells and early saxifrage on the road-facing slope near the trail-head. Look for the red and yellow flowers.
Shenk’s Ferry was spectacular the third week of April. I’m thrilled I made it there this Spring flowering season. It’s a bit of a drive to get there from the mountains, but definitely worth the effort.
I was just as excited to read that the property was transferred from PPL to the Lancaster Conservancy as of 2014. We’re hoping it will remain in its present state for generations to come!
Getting to Shenk’s Ferry has been a little exciting in years past. If you’ve got a truck or another vehicle with a higher clearance that would be the vehicle to take there. The road leading to the entrance of the Wildflower Preserve was in better shape this time than past years where you worried that the car would bottom out on the deep ruts in the dirt road. You could see where somebody had some fun off-roading creating those ruts!
Shenk’s Ferry Road will lead you to Green Hill Road which leads downhill to the preserve. It’s a dirt road that lies at the bottom of several hills that drain Lancaster County as rain water rushes down into the Susquehanna River.
It appeared that recent work had been done on the road, but just go slow and you’ll be fine. Through the tunnel and bear left and keep going to the entrance. Park along the road.
Stop at the sign at the entrance to check the trail map and see some photos of the flora you might be able to see.
The trail is wide enough in most spots for a couple to walk hand-in-hand. Be watchful for