Around here (the deciduous forests of the temperate latitudes), wildflowers are the first to announce Spring. Harbinger of Spring (Ereginia bulbosum) is the very first. It’s a barebones flower. Hardly any petals at all, just dots of the reproductive parts: stamen and pistil. Hence the common name “salt and pepper.”
But since it is already April, you won’t see salt and pepper at the Wildflower Day from 2-5 today, Sunday April 16 at Scattering Fork. You might spot its leaves. Even more likely, you’ll spot the distinctive “trout lily” leaves that look like spotted trout and the lovely leaves of bloodroot and the aptly named “Dentaria” leaves which look like sharp teeth. But their flowers are about all gone.
What you will see are three species of violets: yellow, purple and, my favorite, blue-eyed Mary.
You’ll be lucky if you get to Scattering Fork today, you’ll see huge colonies of blue eyed Mary. The purple and even yellow violets are more adapted to open ground, but you have to go to the deep woods to get the best.
A rival in uniqueness is wake robin (Trillium sessile). It is most often three deep purple petals which look like three hands folded in prayer. There is also a white variant, but it’s rare.
Another spring wildflower with a great name is “sweet William.” It’s genus is Phlox, but its been domesticated and turned into dozens of species you can see in gardens everywhere. The wild variety at Scattering Fork is Phlox divarcata–a lean version of the showy and plump garden varieties.
Besides the ubiquitous spring beauties, the only white flower you’ll find at Scattering Fork in early Spring is false rue anemone (Enemoim biternatum). It looks a lot like rue anemone, but always has 5 white petal-like sepals, while rue anemone always has far more.
Another white species like ground less wet than Scattering Fork, but one spectacular one you can see it on higher ground nearby: Dutchman’s britches (Dicentra cucularia). All the kids and many adults love this one. Many have related Dicentra species in their gardens. They all have distinctive flowers. This one looks like pants hanging on a clothesline.
The only yellow flower at Scattering Fork this time of year is swamp buttercup (Ranunculus septentrionalis). A long name for a flower good for rubbing yellow pollen on friend’s noses.
One plant which has just emerged and will flower soon is mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). Huge colonies have sprung up in the last few days from their tubers. They grow one year as single leaves. In the second year they get two leaves and a flower bud emerges from the axil where the two leaves come together. You’ll find the buds today at Scattering Fork and the flowers soon.
Wildflowers aren’t all you’ll find at Scattering Fork today. You might see the brown swirling flowers of paw paw on small trees. There will be lots of deer and raccoons, though you may only see tracks. If you get really lucky you might find a box turtle just emerged from hibernation. No matter what you find, you’ll be glad you came.