Okay, yes, the snow is really pretty. But change is good.
So when the drifts finally recede, it’s time to keep one’s senses open to all the sights and sounds and smells and any other clues one can find for Spring’s Mountain arrival.
Anything–ANYTHING–poking through the ground is a reason to celebrate. Even a worm.
So let’s talk early spring wildflowers today.
The first noticeable wildflower is usually mistaken for dandelions. It is Coltsfoot. The obvious diff between it and your little lawn pest is the lack of leaves! Seriously, you can remember this! These flowers come up BEFORE the leaves, and when was the last time you saw dandelions do that?? That explains their earlier name: “Son-before-the-father.” They get their present name from the leaf shape which, at full-size, truly looks like a pony hoof-print.
Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara , can be easily found along the road around the Lake and anywhere that is sunny with disturbed soil. Think excavation sites.
(Aside: did you know that early dandelion leaves are edible? I even see them in produce departments in stores like Weis. Pick your own before they bud and only if you didn’t ravage them with Weed-n-Feed. )
Another early sight-for-sore-eyes are the precious little Azure Bluets, sometimes called Quaker Ladies. These too are often mistaken for another flower, in this case Forget-me-nots. So here’s your “tell”: Bluets (“BLOO-ets”) have FOUR petals, Forget-me-nots, five. Maybe you can remember that “bluet” has less letters than the other name and has less petals. Or maybe you don’t have trouble with this stuff. You’re probably younger than us.
Cool fact: The Cherokee used an infusion of it to control bedwetting. Not recommended for preventing accidents in summer cottages. ¹
Bluets, houstonia caerulea, are abundant near the Pond parking area and on the Episcopal Church lawn. Keep your eyes open for them and let us know in the Comments if you find them elsewhere.
The REAL Forget-me-nots are also flowering at this time, so here’s a pic. There are actually several varieties and their habitat determines their species. But it doesn’t alter their beauty. The one that invades your flower bed is Myosotis verna, the Spring Forget-me-not. The one growing in run-off ditches around the lake is Myosotis scorpioides, True Forget-me-not.
Interesting Trivia: The Forget-me-not is used as a symbol for Alzheimer’s Disease.
The third flower we spotted recently super-excites us. It is a Trout Lily, also called Dog’s Tooth Violet, Adder’s Tongue, and a bunch of other names, none of which are terribly flattering to something so lovely. Blame it on people trying to compare the leaf to something they know. And it’s not a violet at all. Go figure.
You might not even FIND a flower cuz they don’t come up in bunches like many other flowers, and people are lazy and don’t keep their eyes open. So watch for the leaves. They will be growing in rich, lightly-shaded woodland soil in colonies. You only find ONE leaf for each plant, and it’s thick, and waxy, shaped like any of those things above (tongues, teeth, fish), and mottled with brownish splotches.
Now look closely and when you find a PAIR of leaves, you’ll likely find a flower because only when the plant is mature enough to produce two leaves does it get ready to reproduce. And you’ll say, “Whoa? How did I miss that? It’s pretty big!” And now your eyes just got a kickstart in becoming observational. WTG.
Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum, has some interesting medicinal uses. You can eat the leaves, flowers, and “root” (corm). Use caution: it is an emetic meaning too much will make you puke. It also contains a chemical that prevents cell mutation and may prove useful in fighting cancer! ²
Trout Lily grows along the Laurel Path near both entrances from the Beach, and along the Chaseway (sidewalk ) near the Field of Dreams. And maybe in your backyard if you live in The Park. Let us know!
If you get as excited about little wild things growing as we do, check this Eagles Mere wildflower identification site for help. You’ll be amazed at all the wonder at your feet. In addition, download the Pennsylvania Wildflowers app for Android . And hope for a good signal when you’re on your walk.
Leslie and Bill
P.S. Found any wildflowers lately? Let us know where and when below!