Early spring wildflowers

In central Maryland, we are fortunate to find many native wildflowers blooming. In early spring, several species can be found in the forest and also in open areas. This past winter did not bring the extended cold of the last two winters, with the result that many of the early spring wildflowers have been appearing since late winter. Some of the more common, native species to look for include these:

Bloodroot is found in woodland setting, often in damp areas or near streams

Eastern spring beauty (virginica) has small flowers about half-inch across, with five white or pink petals. The leaves of the spring beauty are long and slender. The flowers open during the day and close as dusk approaches or when skies are overcast. Spring beauty can be found in moist wooded areas and forest clearings.

Large flowered trillium (grandiflorum), also called white trillium, has a large white flower, about 11Ú2 to 2 inches in diameter. The "tri" in trillium notes that the flowers have three petals. It is often found in upland forests and is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants. Trillium seeds are coated with a substance that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the covering but leave the seeds to germinate. A sensitive native plant, it can take a year to recover from the picking of its flowers.

Bloodroot (canadensis) grows in moist shady areas. Its single white flower is about an inch and a half in diameter with eight to 12 petals. Bloodroot is another plant spread by ants, since the seeds have a covering that attracts ants. It gets its name from red-orange colored sap in its root and stem. Although considered to have a level of toxicity, the sap has been used as an herbal remedy. The reddish sap can also be used as a dye and wood stain, and was used by indigenous American people as a war paint. Bloodroot is found in woodland settings, often in damp areas or near streams.

Trout lily (Erythronium americanum), also known as dogtooth violet, has a yellow, 1-inch flower on a single stem. Trout lily grows in moist shady areas. The mottled green and brown or purple coloring of the leaves likely gave the plant its name due to the similarity in coloring to some species of trout. It mainly propagates through its spreading root system.

Round-leaved hepatica (Hepatica americana), also called liverleaf, grows 3 to 6 inches tall with flowers containing six to 12 petal-like blue, pink or white sepals. The leaves have three lobes, as does a human liver. This plant can be found in moist shady areas and also in grassland habitat in limestone soils.

Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) blooms with dangling white flowers about three-quarters of an inch across, with four petals. The wide top of the flower resembles pantaloons hung out to dry. Like other spring woodland flowers, they are found in moist, shaded areas. It is another plant whose seeds are spread by ants.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Notes for 4/8/2012