The Suitcase Lady

Sprung

May 21, 2013, 9:28 pm

This past winter was harsh, but now we are being rewarded for our endurance. Spring has announced her arrival with unparalleled exuberance making the cold and snow distant memories.

We decided to celebrate with a beach walk from our house to the nature preserve on a nearby bluff. As we climbed the bluff and stepped into the forest, wood violets were poking their petals above the leaf litter. These petite blooms are our state flower and one of Spring’s earliest harbingers.

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Following an old deer trail up the side of a steep hill, we emerged into a snowy glen. But this “snow” was trilliums, thousands of them mocking the real snow that only last month covered this same patch of forest.

The Chicago Botanical Garden describes trilliums eloquently:

In the constellation of singular spring flowers, there are a few stars that shine more brightly than the rest. Perhaps the fairest of them all is the great white trillium, Trillium Grandiflorum… also known as wake-robin, snow trillium or trinity flower, it is easily recognizable by its waxy white flower with three petals and three sepals blooming atop a single stalk arising from a whorl of three deep green leaves.

We will be back next weekend to check the trilliums’ progress; the petals fade to a delicate pale rose color before the show ends.

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Going from the truly sublime to the delightfully nutty, skunk cabbage lined the roadside on our walk home. This remarkable plant is an early bloomer as the buds within the plant create enough heat to melt the snow around it. Buds can reach 70 degrees even in freezing weather.

Skunks do not dine on skunk cabbage. The name comes from the plant’s skunky smell which attracts pollinators. Large predators steer clear as the giant leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals which create a burning sensation in the mouth.

When not disturbed, a skunk cabbage plant can live a long time. Some researchers believe the largest ones could be hundreds of years old.

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Mixed in with the skunk cabbage in low lying wet places, marsh marigolds were also heralding Spring. Mounds of these sunny yellow flowers light up the forest floor. Marsh marigolds are in the buttercup family and are referred to in our locale as cowslips.

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Nature loves spirals, and Spring’s spirals, ferns, were everywhere on our walk. As the days grow longer, the spirals will slowly unfurl into huge green plumes. Then we will know that Spring has completely unsprung.

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