Tag Archives: bloodroot

Weather & Wildflowers

The Upstate was plagued in 2016 with spring windstorms, summer drought, and an extended hot and dry autumn. Unfortunately, it looks like 2017 might prove equally unkind. A mild January and warm February stimulated an early spring that was squelched in March by the return of winter.  In the past week we’ve seen a low of 23 F (-5 C) and a high of 86 F (30 C), a difference of 63 degrees in just a few days. Then, on Tuesday evening, mighty thunderstorms swept across our region, pelting some areas with 2 inches of hail and others with nearly 4 inches of rain.

So, in my shady garden, where spring is the main event, the azaleas droop with brown flowers and there will be no blooms on the bigleaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla)  this year. (Sigh.)

Thank goodness there is joy to be found in the woodland garden, where a group of “rescued” sweet Betsy trilliums (T. cunneatum) are thriving.

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Sweet Betsy trillium (T. cunneatum) moved from a nearby area.

Moved just 2 years ago from a property being bulldozed for construction,  the plants are already beginning to spread. Trilliums reproduce vegetatively from small rhizome offshoots, as well as by seeds. When seeds mature, they attract ants and yellow jackets to a lipid-rich food body (elaiosome) attached to their seed coat. Ants move the seeds short distances and yellow jackets disperse them further afield.

Here is another happy surprise.

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More Sweet Betsy.

This naturally occurring patch of sweet Betsy has more than doubled in size since 2011. In fact, this group of trilliums is the very first I found here, surviving under a cloak of English ivy, which spurred our determination to clear invasive plants and reestablish natives.  Six years ago there were 18 flowers. When this photo was taken a few days ago, I counted 38!

Typically, the flowers of bloodroot are finished by now, but not this year.

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Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot is one of the most cherished signs of early spring.  The flowers, partially encircled by a single unfolding leaf, appear well before the trees leaf out.  Can you see the pollen on the lower petals?  Pollen eating bees and flies are attracted to the nectarless flowers, but if cross-pollination doesn’t occur within 3-4 days, then the anthers bend toward the stigma and shower it with pollen.

Look what else is waking.

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Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Burned by frost, but with a bloom in the making.  Thank goodness all parts of this plant, except its fleshy fruit, are highly poisonous.  The local deer family, a doe with twin yearlings, was back for a browse yesterday.

In the garden, we can’t predict what tomorrow might bring…but fingers crossed for more good things ahead.

 

 

 

 

In a Vase on Monday, March 7, 2016

A quick hello and goodbye as I head to the airport this morning for a week-long meeting in Washington, DC.  The weather has been sunny and warm over the past few days and I already regret I’ll miss some of the pleasures of spring in the Upstate.

Here is a peek at what’s blooming in a vase today and a look at what’s happening in the woodland too.

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In the sunroom: Store-bought lilies and another stunted hyacinth blub, unintentionally tortured. I’ll do better next year, I promise.

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In the woodland: Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), my favorite native wildflower.

For more vases, vist Kathy at Rambling in the Garden.

 

A Garden Place (Hortitopia)

On Saturday, I had the good fortune to hike with the Greenville Natural History Association, by invitation of Bill Robertson, an acclaimed Upstate nature photographer.   I was a bit worried about the expedition to Chestnut Ridge, especially after I saw the elevation profile.

Elevation profile of Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve

Elevation profile of Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve

Bill said he was only hiking the first mile, however, and I really should come along.   I’ve been eager to hike with Bill, who’s very generous with his knowledge and encouragement, and decided to plunge in.  Once I met up with the group at the car-pooling location on Saturday, I noted I was younger than most and was optimistic I could hold my own on the trail.

On the ride to the Heritage Preserve, I met and got to know Ian and Jane, members of the Association and frequent hikers.  I later learned Ian routinely hikes 10 miles several times each week and is an excellent photographer, as well as a photography teacher for OLLI at Furman University.

The early blooms on Chestnut Ridge are mostly the same as those in my woodland garden, primarily sweet Betsy trillium (T. cuneatum) and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), but it was instructive to watch the process of the photographers in the group, who true to Bill’s word, pulled up at the first area of native wildflowers while the rest of the hikers continued on towards the Pacolet River.

I took a few pics with my new camera, a Nikon D7100 which is well beyond my grasp of understanding.  On this occasion, however, I knew time was better spent watching Bill and Ian, who were taking macro shots using a tripod and diffuser.

Bill (holding diffuser) and Ian working on macro image of bloodroot

Bill (holding diffuser) and Ian working on macro image of bloodroot

Bill's bloodroot

Bill’s photograph, shown here, uses the stamens of the second flower to create a golden glow around the foreground bloom.

After a while, Ian decided to hike to the river to have lunch with Jane and, foolish in my new-found confidence, I invited myself to go with him to rejoin the group.  As soon as we topped Squirrel Mountain and began the steep decent to the river, I had serious misgivings because I knew the return trip could well get the best of me.

I love hikes that have a treat at the terminus and the Pacolet River didn’t disappoint.  Though the waterway is small, it is located in a deep valley gorge and offers a sandy bank at the river crossing that is perfect for a picnic.  When we arrived, the group was just dusting themselves off for the return hike, so Ian and I quickly ate a few bites.  Lynne, the hike leader, stayed behind to “sweep” and I was much relieved to have a second encourager as we watched the group quickly disappear up the trail.

Pacolet River

Pacolet River

On the return, as I usually do when I’m in over my head, I just put my head down and pressed the gas.  Though I was huffing and puffing, our small group was about halfway up Squirrel Mountain when Lynne spied a garter snake writhing beside the path.  Closer inspection showed the snake had snared a Southern Appalachian salamander (Plethodontid teyahalee) and we watched as the snake slowly worked its way from the amphibian’s mid-section down to the tail so it could turn its prey and devour it.

Common garter snake, about 18-inches long, with Southern Appalachian salamander

Common garter snake, about 18-inches long, with Southern Appalachian salamander

Garter snake devours its prey

Garter snake devours its prey

Needless to say, we thought this would be the trill of the trip, but we were surprised a second time only steps beyond the summit, when I discovered a Luna moth (Actias luna), just emerged from its chrysalis and drying in the warm sunshine.

Luna moth (Actias luna)

Luna moth (Actias luna)

Luna moth, drying its wings

Luna moth, drying its wings

If you look closely, the moth can be distinguished as a male by its antennae, which are larger and wider than those of the female.  Though not rare, the Luna is seldom found because its life is brief.  The adult doesn’t have a mouth or eat because its single purpose is to mate, and thus it only survives about a week.

Stopping along the way to photograph the snake and moth allowed me to catch my breath.  The return trip was strenuous, but luckily and with many thanks to Ian and Lynne, I made it back to the start of the trail without too much discomfort or embarrassment.

The name of this blog, Hortitopia, is a word (horti + topia = garden + place) made to describe, in part, the amazing region where I live.  I’m grateful every day to enjoy its unique and wonderful species diversity.  To learn more about the Upstate,  read my first blog post here.

A clump of sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) flourishing among a large patch of  spring-beauty (Claytonia virginica)

A clump of sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) flourishing among a large patch of spring-beauty (Claytonia virginica)

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.  ~ William Shakespeare

Bloom Alert

After another round of slushy snow on Wednesday and Thursday, today is bright and warm, so it’s been hard to stay focused on work.  Needing a break, I pulled my wellies on after lunch for a quick walk to see if any of the woodland natives had “endeavored to persevere” through our extremely cold winter.  I hoped to discover a sign or two of Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot), my favorite spring ephemeral, but couldn’t find a trace.

Surprisingly, however, many of the Trillium cuneatum (sweet Betsy), which I rescued from a nearby area of development last spring, are up and already in bud.  There’s still no sign of other, established trilliums.

Trillium cuneatum (sweet Betsy)

Trillium cuneatum (sweet Betsy)

Erythronium americanum, commonly called trout lily for its speckled foliage, is even further along.  One bud has apparently been eaten by a critter, but the rest are within a few days of opening.   The plant, given to me by a friend from her garden in 2013, has bulked up since last year.

Erythronium americanum (trout lily)

Erythronium americanum (trout lily)

I also found foliage of Tipularia discolor (cranefly orchid), easily identified by the dark coloring on the underside of its leaves.  The foliage will die long before flowers appear in late summer.

Tipularia discolor (cranefly orchid)

Tipularia discolor (cranefly orchid)

I often refer to the terraces that extend down to the Reedy River at the rear of our property.  In the upper right-hand corner of the photo below, you can barely see the retaining wall that supports the back garden.   And just to the left of the photo is a second, but shorter, retaining wall.

Woodland between house and river.

Woodland between house and river.

Each neon-pink flag marks a spot where an herbaceous plant grows.  Though unsightly now, they help me remember where it’s safe to add new natives, and they’ll be removed when the area is better established.

The garden surrounding the house contains many non-native ornamentals, while the terrace closest to the river cannot be kept clear of non-natives because of periodic flooding.  The woodland shown here, about a quarter acre, is a haven for native plants only.

Keeping Spring

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. Margaret Atwood

Table Rock

Table Rock

Who could disagree? Especially on the first day of the season, when wildflowers are blooming in abundance along the trail to Station Cove Falls, not too far beyond Table Rock on Hwy. 11, just an hour or so from Greenville.

Not me.

I want to keep spring with wet knees in pursuit of wildflower photos and a dirty bottom from picnicking under a waterfall on an immense, lichen-covered boulder.

Yellow-flowered form of sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)

Yellow-flowered form of sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)

Station Cove, located between the steep slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the rolling hills of the Piedmont, is the perfect place to do so. In March, this unique habitat is one of the best spots to find a wide variety of indigenous species, as well as enjoy the natural beauty of our region.

Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)

Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)

The mostly-flat trail, just three-quarters of a mile long, offers an easy hike among large communities of sweet Betsy trillium and mayapples, plus smaller groups of bloodroot, liverleaf, rue anemone, little brown jugs, rattlesnake orchid, and several species of violets.

Emerging colony of mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Emerging colony of mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

The mayapples produce umbrella-like leaves on two types of stems: singles and forks. The forks have a branched stem with two leaves and a single flower at the junction of the leafstalks. In the photo above, you can see the flower bud between the foliage. As the plant continues to grow, the leaves will reach inches above the white flower which turns downward as it blooms.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

I’m completely enamored with the short-lived but cheerful blooms of bloodroot. Though flowers are fleeting, the shade-tolerant herb retains its leaves through the summer, which actively grow and, in time, reach four to eight inches in diameter.

Liverleaf (Hepatica acutiloba)

Liverleaf (Hepatica acutiloba)

Liverleaf gets its common name from the distinctive shape of its foliage. Interestingly, each flower stalk lengthens and bends to the ground as its bloom fades, making it easier for ants to collect and disperse the seeds. When flowering is complete, the reddish-brown foliage dies and the plant produces a new set of green leaves which persist until the following spring.

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)

The small, delicate-looking rue anemone is actually quite hardy and will survive hard frosts. The species is easy to differentiate from others in our region, as it is the only one which produces umbels of flowers, with each stalk offering one central and up to four lateral blooms.

Little brown jugs (Hexastylis arifolia)

Little brown jugs (Hexastylis arifolia)

I removed the surrounding leaf litter to find the unopened bloom of this Hexastylis, which gives the plant its common name of little brown jugs. Alternately, some folks call them “little pigs.” Seedlings of this species develop slowly; it can take seven or more years before the first flower is produced.

Halberdleaf yellow violet (Viola hastata) and (at bottom left) rattlesnake orchid (Goodyera pubescens)

Halberdleaf yellow violet (Viola hastata) and (at bottom left) rattlesnake orchid (Goodyera pubescens)

When not in bloom, the Halberdleaf violet can be identified by its arrowhead-shaped leaves mottled with silvery blotches. The rattlesnake orchid’s distinctive network of white veins and broad stripe on its midrib do the same. But while the violet blooms in early spring, the orchid produces its 15-inch tall bloom spike in July or August.

Station Cove Falls

Station Cove Falls

The reward at the trail’s turn around is a stepped 60-foot waterfall. Swollen with water from recent rains, Station Creek splashed over the mountain’s face in a dramatic cascade. Anne, my hiking companion, and I enjoyed our snack lunch of crackers, cheese, and fruit, on an immense boulder at the base of the waterfall. We spotted a number of birds in nearby trees, as well as a bat scooping insects just above the surface of the creek.

Station Creek Falls, filled with recent rain, from my lunch perch atop an immense boulder.

Station Creek Falls, filled with recent rain, from my lunch perch atop an immense boulder.

Buckeye (Aesculus)

Buckeye (Aesculus)

The many buckeye trees near the waterfall had already sprouted foliage. By leafing out early, the tree gets a boost from unimpeded sunlight. Flower clusters, which typically begin to open in April, are said to lure hummingbirds north on their spring migration.

Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Though salamanders proved elusive, I was able to capture two fair images of the Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis), the first scampering from under doghobble (Leucothoe) in spring green dress, and the second cloaked in drab brown atop a log, warming itself in the sunshine.

Caroline anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Caroline anole (Anolis carolinensis)

It was a happy, satisfying hike; an exercise I hope to repeat many times in the coming weeks as the season progress and more wildflowers come into bloom. And yes, I must have smelled like dirt at the end of the day.

How did you celebrate your first glorious day of spring?

Weekend in Review

Tim and I headed back to the hills on Saturday, with friends Signe and Ron, to stretch our legs and revisit the trout lilies at the Chandler Heritage Preserve. We weren’t disappointed. Now at the peak of bloom, thousands of trout lilies are flowering on the short trail between Persimmon Ridge and the granite outcrop that overlooks northern Greenville County. The lilies are tiny and hard to photograph, but the pic below will give you an idea of how thickly they cover the forest floor.

Trout lilies (Erythronium)

Trout lilies (Erythronium)

Here is a better look at a single plant glowing in the afternoon light.

Trout lily, Chandler Heritage Preserve.

Trout lily, Chandler Heritage Preserve.

Then, early Sunday, I headed to the Paris Mountain area, located just five miles north of downtown, to collect a few native plants on offer from my friend Suzy. Suzy shared a generous handful of cranefly orchids (Tipularia discolor) from a large patch growing at her farm, and a heart’s-a-bustin’ (Euonymus americanus), which I planted in the woodland area between the house and the river.

Cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor)

Cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor)

The native orchid has a two-part lifecycle. In winter, it produces a single leaf that is green on top and purple below. The foliage dies in late spring and a couple months later, in July or August, the plant produces a flower spike with dozens of tiny orchids. For more info on this unique native, look here.

Recently, I’ve started a new project in the woodland, just beyond the stone retaining wall that supports the backyard, but I can’t take credit for its progress. I’ve hired a fellow to build stone steps that will allow me navigate the steep terraces on the north-facing slope down to the river. The idea is to keep the woodland as natural as possible, but to gain better access so that I don’t slip and break my neck. As you can see, there will be two stairways connected by a long, straight path.

New stone steps provide safe access.

New stone steps provide safe access.

Looking in the opposite direction, a second stairway will be located just beyond the tree.

Looking in the opposite direction, a second stairway will be located just beyond the tree.

The red and white flags you see in the photos mark areas where native perennials grow.

The native plants in my shady woodland are just beginning to emerge, however, so I explored my neighbor’s sunnier slope and found the first bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) in bloom, as well as the first flowering sweet Betsy trillium (Trillium cuneatum).

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)

Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)

It was a terrific weekend for wildflowers, don’t you think?