An Explosion of Colour
Hiking through this area in late April and early May can be breathtaking as tiny wildflowers carpet the ground in a tapestry of colour. These first blooms, the spring ephemerals, spend the majority of their life as dormant roots and bulbs in the forest floor, patiently awaiting the spring melt and the arrival of warm temperatures. Then, they race for the sky, emerging and quickly flowering while the trees are still bare. With the lack of a full canopy overhead, these plants rush to complete their life cycle while obtaining the maximum amount of sunlight available to them. They photosynthesize in earnest, sending some of the collected energy into producing blooms and into seed production, but also storing some of it in their root systems in anticipation of the following year. As the trees begin to leaf out and the available light dwindles, the flowers begin to wilt and die, turning into seed. The seeds disperse, the plants wither, and only the underground root systems remain.
A stroll through this area in the early spring will reveal a verdant carpet of mottled leaves. The leaves of the Yellow Trout Lily emerge first, followed shortly by the beautiful yellow blooms. This species is colonial, sending up many leaves, although only a few of these will produce flower stalks. The rest of the leaves collect energy for the colony. Some of these colonies are thought to be over 300 years old! Look for the gorgeous Dutchman’s Breeches, with its dissected leaves and its distinct white blooms looking like pants hanging along a clothesline. The tiny Carolina Spring Beauty grows in clusters. The pale, 5-petaled flowers show veins of deep purple or pink. Wild Leeks send up large patches of odorous leaves but save their blooms for later in the season. As the canopy begins to leaf out, the beloved Red Trillium and White Trillium bloom, signaling the latter end of the ephemeral cycle and the beginning of blackfly season. The long slumber begins until the following spring.