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The Woods in My Backyard – Part 1

I am fortunate to have some woodland around my neighborhood, and though there are a fair number of invasive plants taking over, there are still some lovely wildflowers to be found. I have walked these paths several times before, so I have learned where to find some of the good stuff.

Claytonia virginica

This is Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) season. They’re simply everywhere along the paths and in the woods where there is dappled sunlight. Solitary bees and insects called bee flies were out and about pollinating them. Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is also blooming now. They get their name from reddish sap found in the roots, which contains hemoglobin for transporting oxygen, just like in animal blood. The sap can also irritate the skin.

Everywhere there was water from a creek or moist lowland, Skunk Cabbages were up and leaved-out. They vaguely resemble a large, bright green Hostas, but the flowers are something else! Buried near the stem, they look like some kind of maroon-blotched claw or hooked beak, inside of which the flowers reside.

I’ve read that the flower can actually emit just enough heat in late winter to melt snow so they are exposed to pollinators. I’m not sure how that worked with the several feet they had to contend with this winter. Maybe that’s why I saw a few flowers so late, since they normally would have finished blooming by now.

Arisaema triphyllum

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is coming up as well, with their distinctive arrowhead-shaped leaves and hooded flowers. May-Apples (Podophyllum peltatum) are popping up in colonies, their new leaves still like limp umbrellas ready to be snapped open.

Lindera benzoin

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) shrubs were blooming, their small yellow clusters along the stems dotting the woods. A perennial in the cress family, Cutleaf

Cardamine concatenata

Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) had their distinctive leaves out and some flowers open. Small colonies of Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides) were flowering amongst tree roots above a stream at the base of a steep bank. Violets – white, purple, yellow – were dotting the ground, especially in mossy patches.

A favorite treasure trove of mine is a colony of Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum); their waxy leaves have reddish mottling, sometimes making them hard to spot amongst the fallen leaves unless you know where to look. A few early plants were in flower, their yellow lily-like blooms hanging down on short stems.

Tipularia discolor

Another treasure is the Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor) which I stumbled upon by blind luck.

They have only one leaf that emerges in fall and lasts all winter and spring, usually a nice purplish-green. The leaf dies off in summer, when the stalk of small flowers emerges. Later that fall, a new leaf emerges and repeats the cycle.

I have only seen a few plants in my travels, all in the same small area. Maybe there are more off the beaten path.

Click here for part two: The Woods In My Back Yard – Part 2

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thank you for this – hope in 2015 you still have these beauties growing in the neighborhood woods! I’m a Maryland native plant enthusiast appreciating how everything seems to be coming up at once this spring.

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