A Year in the Life of Pimmit Run: Early Bloomers
Updated: Nov 25
Spring is now taking off so fast that I need to document the early bloomers before they are a distant memory. Per lexico.com, an early bloomer is 1) a plant which flowers relatively early in the growing season, or 2) a person who develops or excels at an unusually young age. Acording to lexico, the earliest known use of the term dates to the mid-19th century and attributed to John Sinclair (1754–1835), agricultural improver, politician, and codifier of ‘useful knowledge’.
Clearly there is something very special about early bloomers. Perhaps its because they signal the promise of what is to come. There is nothing like seeing their rapid development along the forest floor, bursting with color and green. And then they are gone. Where to begin?
To those who begin their search early, the blooms of the Lindera benzoin, Spicebush, are among the first to make an appearance on the floodplain. Initially a tiny yellow speck of a bud appears in March and even February, barely noticeable, a marker to return in a few weeks. Then the burst of yellow flowers appear. Below, see the glory of the blossom of the Spicebush, host to the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly,
Following the Spicebush I come across masses of Sanguinaria canadensis, or Bloodroot, named for its bright red roots which have medicinal value. Bloodroot appears in abundance across the Pimmit Run Stream Valley forest and floodplain floor, its flowers opening in the day and closing up at night. Once the flowers diminish, the distinctive leaves remain for a while before disappearing in the heat of summer.
It is hard to beat the beauty of Mertensia virginica, Virginia Bluebells. Coming across an indigenous cluster along the floodplain is a sight to see. Everything about it is a pure delight. What more is there to say?
And then there are the Trilliums. They pop up in all their glory in the Basic Hardwood Mesic Forest, on what will be shady hillsides above the floodplain once the forest leafs out. They put on quite the show. Here we have Trillium sessile, or Toadshade. They like to show off in small groups. And they magically appear on their own, without any planting or prompting.
Hanging out near the Trilliums and extending down to the floodplain floor are the Erythronium americanum, Trout Lily, which like it wet and even thrive in harsh, barren conditions. The vivid yellow flowers require one to get up close and personal with the ground, but it's worth it.
And then there is the joy of experiencing a carpet of Claytonia virginica, Spring Beauty, named after Virginia botanist John Clayton. Too often this precious ephemeral gets crowded out by the invasive Ficaria verna, Lesser Celandine, which is taking over our forest floors. Amazingly, one can still come across blankets of Spring Beauty along the Pimmit Run Stream Valley floor.
I am finding that the diminutive Viola sororia, Common Blue Violet, is in force everywhere right now. Despised by those who worship the perfect lawn, Viola sororia is one of the larval host plants for numerous butterflies, including the Edward's Fritillary butterfly, Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly, the Coronis Fritillary butterfly, the Mormon Fritillary butterfly, and the Variegated Fritillary butterfly. I list all of those as a reminder to anyone thinking about using pesticides to rid themselves of it. Give in to it and enjoy them. Life is less stressful that way. And there is a bonus -- the flowers and young leaves are edible.
Who could ask for more? Perhaps a different color flower? The variation Viola sororia f. priceana, Common Blue Violet Bi-Colored Form, can also be found across the Pimmit Run forest floor.
Dentaria laciniata or Cardamine concatenata, Cutleaf Toothwort, is frequently seen as a companion of the Trout Lily and Bloodroot. It thrives in the lower forest and along the floodplain and is a huge source of nectar for early bees and pollinators.
Walking along the Pimmit Run Stream Valley trails, it's not unusual to come across a combination of these favorites clustered together, illustrating natural plant communities in action, Here we have Trout Lily, Bloodroot, and Cutleaf Toothwort all hanging out together, just as expected. Yes, that's a little English Ivy in there, a constant battle being fought.
Before we leave this scene, a few words about the modest early bloomers that are Luzula multiflora, Common Wood Rushes. This is the time of year when they bloom and their blooms are pretty striking and worth checking out. They appear in clumps in wet spots, often near the stream or vernal pools. Some have purplish leaves, some green. But they all have the distinctive tall flowers that appear like spikes on close inspection.
There you have it -- the early bloomers of Pimmit Run Stream Valley. Many will soon be gone and we will move onto the next stage.