Every year around this time we like to go for woods walks looking for the earliest Spring flowers. The Spring Ephemeral flowers are a bunch of beautiful early Spring flowers that one can see in the Eastern forests of the United States. Early in the Spring season means before the trees leaf out and not on a certain calendar date.
This year seems behind last year by about a week judging by a set of early crocuses that were planted a few years ago. In 2013 they were in full bloom on 27 March and in 2014 the first individuals of the set were blooming yesterday.
Here in South-Central Pennsylvania the Mill Race Trail at Little Buffalo State Park is a convenient place to find early spring wild flowers. It’s practically adjacent to the parking lot and a short 1/2 mile trail. I took the trail loop in counterclockwise direction starting at the Clay’s Covered Bridge. Turn right out of the bridge and then go left at the ‘Mill Race Trail’ sign. The trail goes through a mature forest near the edge of a stream on your left. Follow the stream out of the forest to the clear cut.
The trail markings could be better from the stream through the forest, but look for the foot path and the orange blazes on the trees. The trail comes out into an opening in the forest, where everything taller than a shrub was whacked down a few years ago for maintenance of the electric utility right-of-way. The landscape is regrowing since the clear cut, but there an obvious lack of tall trees in the utility line’s path going over the mountain.
The forest opening would be a good place to gather some millet judging by the large stand of it that has stood up the whole winter, amazingly.
A stream meanders down the mountain that was once harnessed to run the grain mill, Shoaff’s Mill. The trail follows the “race” or course of water that was directed to the mill when it was used.
The whole area circumscribed by the Mill Race Trail will have lovely Spring Ephemeral flowers popping up in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned! Today the only flowers visible were the cryptic Skunk Cabbage flowers and they were hard to find.
About the only green plants we see right now are the ground ivy, chives and ferns. No hepatica, no spice bush, no bloodroot flowers – only the water in the stream was going on strong today. But we did hear a flock of swans pass overhead, and some honkers, too!