I had been writing the next post for After Eden in my head for days—all while working at the lake, mulching leaves, cutting back energetic and wayward ivy, burning fallen debris, and just generally tidying things up. Then I realized that the next post was not in my head but at my feet. Various spring wildflowers were making their way through the leaves and pine needles. Beautiful, delegate, even elegant like the rue anemone in the featured image above, these ephemerals were announcing spring and repeating a life cycle that would soon be hidden again underground in the heat of the summer.
The daffodils bloomed a few weeks ago, although a few types are yet to open. The grape hyacinths planted over 20 years ago, and now naturalized throughout the area, still hold on. These two spring flowers are different than the woodland natives, though. I planted them and expect to see them, even if each year I am surprised where I see the freely roaming grape hyacinths. Yes, they are quite different, and their message is different, too. They are the evidence of my planting, my planning, no matter how they have since taken it upon themselves to spread and create new designs.
The woodland perennials, however, I look for but never assume to see. They are gifts that come from the soil itself. Not planted by me, predating any presumption I have to ownership of the land, they belong to what was once woodland, to what is still their own private cycle of bright blooming, reproduction, and retreating to their darker, deeper, underground existence. Their message is one of persistence, promise, and renewal. A message deeply appreciated on this 15 of March 2019, the Ides of March, the day after another wave of tornadic activity in Alabama. A tornado passed very near Highland Lake last evening. One struck here several years ago taking down a large red oak and several pines, causing damage to other trees and shrubs in their falling. No damage here last night, though.
However, all the plants are a little rain-battered today. And the temperature has taken another erratic dip as it has all winter, so some petals are a little wilted, but the natives are still there living their private lifecycle and brightening the otherwise leaf-brown ground. Most abundant are the bluets (Houstonia caerulea). They are throughout the wooded area of the garden and what I generously call the lawn. These tiny flowers range from a purplish blue to nearly white and are barely a half-inch petal to petal; some are even smaller than that. The wild or common blue violet
(Viola sororia) dots the lawn as well. Interestingly, a Roundup webpage labels this plant as a weed, so Roundup would be unlikely to label my lawn a lawn. I don’t imagine that the small wake robin trillium appearing in more shaded areas of the lawn would be appreciated either.
In the wooded area of the garden, wake robin (Trillium erectum) is more robust in size and in number. Called red trillium or purple trillium by some gardeners, before mid-summer this plant with its large maroon flower and distinctively mottled leaves will die back to the ground.
While wake robin reigns as the most abundant wildflower at the lake, it is not the first I noticed this spring. Over a week ago, I noticed false garlic, or Nothoscordum bivalve, that grows from a bulb similar to a wild onion bulb but has no onion or garlic odor. In spite of its name, it should not be eaten because it is reportedly poisonous to humans. Another common name for the plant, crow poison, would indicate that it is not good for crows either. However, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, there is no proof that it is poisonous to birds! Regardless of toxicity, it is a lovely, delicate plant.
Sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba) is even more delicate, and in my experience more uncommon. Its three-lobed dappled leaves persist through the winter, turning dark purple and becoming rather inconspicuous in a heavy leaf cover. The new bright green leaves develop after the blooms and highlight the brilliance of the flowers’ lime-yellow centers—a perfect paradigm for the freshness of spring.
I find none of these, though, as lovely as rue anemone (Thalictrum thalicatroides) pictured in the featured image and below.
The blooms appear atop slender stems with leaves of three leaflets just below, making it seem as though the flower is hovering in the air above the woodland floor. Non-flowering stems end in a whorl of compound leaves, seeming to float above the ground as does the one in the photo above between the two flowering stems.
There are certainly other signs of spring. The hellebores have been blooming for weeks. The forsythia is relinquishing its vibrant yellow flowers to tender leaves. Solomon’s seal is pushing its way through the ground in small pointed spikes, and the dandelions are flowering. These are all dependable signs of the continued changing of the seasons. These, however, do not speak the same promise of persistence and renewal that the spring wildflowers do—the found flowers that we did not plant, the flowers that live most of the year in secret, the flowers that offer the gift of their delicacy and beauty just at the time of year when we are in need of assurance that the cycle does go on.
© Susan K. Hagen and After Eden, 2019