Lesser Celandine Blooms by the Creek

We had taken a lovely woods walk to see the Spring wildflowers at Shenk’s Ferry a week ago and Lesser Celandine was one of the new flowers we picked up there.

Of course we didn’t actually pick any flowers, I meant it was a new flower to add to my life list. Although it’s just a mental list at this point I still know the ones I’ve seen and not seen. Maybe one day I’ll start checking them off.

Anyway, at the entrance to Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve the creek that travels through the preserve, called Grubb Run, flows through a tunnel under the dirt road to the Susquehanna River. Wildflowers were blooming in abundance all along the hills on either side of this spring run.

It was near the entrance to the preserve at creek side where we saw these pretty yellow flowers blooming.

 Buttercup-type flowers blooming at Shenk's Ferry next to the creek.

Buttercup-type flowers blooming at Shenk’s Ferry next to the creek.

Note the mounds of vegetation and the heart-shaped leaves.

Buttercups have a certain look to them, so I knew that this plant I had never seen before was one. I can’t explain it exactly, but once you can pick up on family traits it can help you identify plants in the wild.

The Buttercup Family, Ranunculaceae, is a large one with members sporting flowers of many colors. We tend to think of bright, golden yellow flowers for buttercups, but buttercup family members may bloom in white, red, pink, yellow, blue, violet, green or brown. Hepatica is in the buttercup family and we’ve seen it blooming in white, pink, blue and violet.

Lesser Celandine, <em>Ranunculus ficaria</em>, blooming.
Lesser Celandine, Ranunculus ficaria, blooms in golden yellow. It probably peaked in blooming a week or so before this photo taken on 28 April 2014.

The most easily recognizable characteristics of buttercups are the numerous stamens and pistils that form a bushy center to the flowers.

Lesser Celandine is known by its bright yellow flowers that have 8-9 petals and many stamens. Its long-stemmed leaves are formed in heart shapes.

When I first saw these flowers by the creek I thought it might be the Marsh Marigold that blooms en masse at Gifford Pinchot State Park, usually during the first week of April.

It turns out that marsh marigolds have more rounded leaves, described as kidney-shaped, and fewer petals that appear to be wider than those pictured here of lesser celandine. Flower stalks are longer in the marsh marigolds measuring 8-24 inches while lesser celandine’s reaches 2-6 inches in length.

Buttercup flowers of lesser celandine with heart-shaped leaves.
Buttercup flowers of lesser celandine with heart-shaped leaves.

Lesser Celandine is not native to North America. It’s an alien here that is native to Europe and western Asia. Unfortunately, it is a very invasive plant. Take a look at the huge mats formed by this non-native plant near Sligo Creek Park in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. to see how invasive it can be.

The early spring blooming of lesser celandine gives it an advantage over the native spring ephemerals that don’t bloom quite so early in the season. So, if you see it don’t be afraid to rip it out by the roots!

Pennsylvania Sedge Hides in the Oak Forest

One never knows all that they’re going to see on a nature walk and sometimes a new discovery is made. That was the case on one of my walks to find hepatica flowers.

Well, I did find lots of hepatica blooming on that walk on 21 April 2014, so much so that I now call the general location Hepatica Hill.

I climbed up a steep wooded hill, up from a hollow where mountain spring water was running down, searching for anything growing or blooming when I came upon what looked like a clump of grass. This bit of “grass” seemed a little out of place

Read morePennsylvania Sedge Hides in the Oak Forest

Shenk’s Ferry is the Richest Glen Ever

Don’t miss out on the Spring wildflowers at Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I have never seen a place so beautiful with so many spring bloomers!

During April this forested glen becomes alive with color. The hillsides turn a bright green with new vegetation and flowers are blooming everywhere you look.

Being on the trail in the middle of this abundance of spring-blooming flowers is truly worth the trip.

Here’s a video that shows a little of the forested glen at Shenk’s Ferry. “It’s one of those treasures that if we lost it we’d never get it back.

I can’t impress upon you enough how beautiful Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve is! You just have to see it for yourself.

Download my copy of the Shenk’s Ferry Wildflowers Brochure — which is no longer available from PPL online as far as I can tell. This Shenk’s Ferry Brochure shows directions to the site and names of the wildflowers that live there.

Bluebells at the Creek Sway in the Breeze

Bluebells will be singing next to the creeks and streams all over central PA for the next week or so.

Look for it in wet places like lowlands, land adjacent to rivers, and the edges of streams and creeks.

Virginia Bluebells Sway in the Breeze
Virginia Bluebells Sway in the Breeze

You may find perennial bluebells planted in gardens because it’s one of the more showy early spring flowers. The bright green foliage of alternating oval leaves develops before the light blue flowers and that lends a little anticipation to the development of the pretty flowers.

Flower buds start small with a rich purple color that fades to pink as the blossoms develop. As the flowers get bigger they take on their light blue color. Several light yellow stamens give bluebells a pastel feel.

Deeply Colored Flower Buds of Mertensia
Deeply Colored Flower Buds of Mertensia

Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica, have the largest leaves at the bottom of the plant. The alternating leaves scope down in size with each new leaf smaller than the previous one.

The last four or five small oval-shaped leaves each have two or more flowers that dangle from the leaf axils on long stems.

The arching single main stem of bluebells allows the bell-shaped flowers to sway in the breeze. There is a concentration of flowers at the terminal end and that may help to bend the main stem to one side.