We discover a new world every time we see the earth again after it has been covered for a season with snow.
~Henry David Thoreau
This past week started with one of those North Carolina spring conundrums – a snow storm! I have been working on some fact sheets on spring ephemerals, those spring wildflowers that have a very short growth period (less than 2 months usually) in the spring. These are forest dwellers that must take advantage of the short period of year when temperatures are warm enough and sunlight sufficient enough on the forest floor to grow, reproduce, and store enough food in their root systems for next year’s growth.
One of the plants usually listed in this category (although, technically, it probably isn’t a true spring ephemeral since its leaves linger for a few months) is one of my favorites – bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis.
Like many other early spring wildflowers, bloodroot has adaptations to protect its delicate parts from the vagaries of a temperate forest spring. The tough leaf embraces the more delicate flower bud and petiole as it emerges from the ground, undoubtedly providing some protection from the cold.
The leaves clasp the extending petiole like a hand holding a bouquet.
I enjoy following the progress of emerging flowers on my short yard tours before or after work, but last Monday, the whole scene changed in an instant. A March snow covered them all in an icy blanket. Some were buried, others poked their flowers above the crust of snow. You can see the leaf curled around the petiole in the photo above.
And then, true to the whims of March in North Carolina, the snow melted. The typical spring storm – here one day, gone the next. The flowers responded quickly, opening up within a day or two.
And now, they are in their brief, but predictable, routine…the flowers close each evening and on cloudy days to protect their pollen when bees and flies are not active. The leaf will unfurl as the flower stalk extends upward, and the flower will be open for just a few days, before the petals fall off and the seed pod begins to grow. You really have to make time for these short-lived plants to appreciate them. It all comes and goes so fast…and I hear there may be more snow on the way later this week. I better go out and admire them this afternoon, just in case.
I’m also enjoying the emergence of bloodroot at Black Walnut Bottoms natural area in historic Bethany outside of Winston Salem. And a few Wake Robins are also popping up!
A great time of year.
particularly loved that Bloodroot in the snow!
That looks creepy.
The leaves are oddly beautiful.
Yes, oddly. They are compelling.
I am reading the Lewis and Clark journals and they talk about using Bloodroot. TImely post in many ways for me. Thanks.
Thanks. I would love to know what the journals say about it’s use.
I think I spoke too soon. I double checked online the journals and couldn’t find the reference. I may have put blood and root together without thinking much about it. The journals do reference roots used by the natives in many places. I learned something new today anyway.
Thanks. Spring is amazing.
It is indeed, sometimes snowy, sometimes warm😎