It is the beginning...the very beginning of spring. Today, night and day are equal, and days will get progressively longer until June's Summer Solstice, bringing all that spring has to offer.
On a warm, sunny day in mid-March shortly before the Equinox, I ventured into the stream valley. And I found many signs of life just beginning to emerge, although from a distance it still looks like winter. Come'on, take a short walk with me to discover the many surprising forms of life afoot.
In the rush of spring, we sometimes overlook the native flora that is first to arrive, even before Spring Equinox. These include Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) blooms, Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) and Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). How can one not love them all? The yellow, understated Spicebush flowers bring joy and cheer once they are spotted (not easily at times).
Bloodroot appears stoutly and abruptly, apparently overnight it would seem, as if to say (I'm here first, all right??).
Spring Beauty is more subtle, popping up here and there, tucked beneath fallen leaves and brush. If one looks closely enough, it can been seen almost everywhere it seems. At least in a healthy forest floor.
I was literally accosted by butterflies (yes, in mid-March!!) when I arrived in the floodplain forest on this warm, sunny day. It was impossible not to see what appeared to be a Spring Azure butterfly (Celastrina ladon) that landed on my boot. Spring Azures are one of the first butterflies to appear and they tend to do so on forest edges and wetlands, exactly where I happened to be. The butterfly remained on my boot for some time, as if to say, "let me come along for the ride!"
Next, a wildly active Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) flitted about and landed on the trail right in my path. It is such a striking butterfly, and, although fairly common, not commonly observed here. But it was hanging about a grove of False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica, now dormant) and Elm trees, which are its host plants. This Eastern Comma was likely overwintering and may have come out of hibernation to enjoy the warm, sunny day.
While we've on the subject of wildlife, can you guess what type of eggs I observed in a vernal pool in the wetland floodplain along the trail? Frogs or salamanders, most likely. Whatever, these eggs are about to hatch!
Signs of what is soon to arrive were abundant. The distinctive mottled Trout Lily leaves were beginning to emerge from underground, with little hint of the glowing yellow delights to come.
Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) could be found peaking out from under the leaves, if one knows where to look for it, in the ecotone between the Oak Heath Beech Forest and the Small Stream Floodplain Forest.
Crane Fly Orchid (Tipularia discolor) leaves appeared strong and fresh in pockets along the floodplain forest floor. They have a unique life cycle. The leaves appear in fall and disappear by the time its delicate and barely noticeable blooms arrive in summer.
Cleavers (Galium aparine) is another spring native making an early green appearance. The delicate whorled leaves give little hint of the abundance to come, and their nutritional value if one is so inclined.
Before I go, just another picture of the lovely Spicebush. It's there, blooming now, if one takes the time to look for it.
With this blog, we have come full circle through the seasons. Now, let the show begin.