Exploring natural history one itsy bitsy spider at a time...

Exploring natural history one itsy bitsy spider at a time...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Presents from Spring!

A lovely rainy walk on the geology trail at Nixon Park Nature Center turned up lots of spring excitement!

Trout Lily leaves!  The tiny yellow lily flowers are sure to bloom any day now.  The spots are said to look like rainbow trout and the flowers are supposed to bloom on the first day of trout season.

Mayapple leaves are popping up.  The fruits that grow the second year are melon flavored lemon-looking yellow balls.  They're food for box turtles and small mammals, but only when they're perfectly ripe.  Otherwise, the fruit is poisonous, along with the leaves, stems, and roots.

Skunk cabbage flowers bloomed the end of February this year at Nixon Park.  The purple spathe holds a  whiteish-yellow spadix inside.  Incase the fowl smell isn't enough to attract gnat pollinators, the flower actually produces its own heat to offer the small insects a warm refuge.   The flower consumes as much oxygen as a small mammal to regulate its heat, reaching up to 37 degrees Fahrenheit above the outside air temperature.  

Two months later, the flowers have been pulled underground by the massive root system and the leaves start to grow.  For more information on the first spring flower, check out this incredibly in depth resource.

Young red-backed salamander in lead-back phase. 

Bloodroots' fleeting blooms will shortly give way to single large deeply lobed leaves.  The rhizome oozes orange-red liquid when snapped open- supposedly having multiple medicinal uses including treating skin conditions.  

Leaves of touch-me-not or jewelweed are popping up in wet places.  In this photo they demonstrate one way they got their name.  Water droplets bead up like shimmery jewels on the leaves.  When bigger, this annual's juicy stems can be used to soothe the itch from poison ivy and insect bites.  

Back in March, next to skunk cabbage, the only wildflower I could find was this round lobed hepatica with it's evergreen leaves from last year.  

Enjoy the spring!