Spring has arrived here in New England…very early this year and some would argue that we never even had a winter at all. But our native wild plants respond as they always do to the warming temperatures and the sunshine beaming through the as-yet-leafless trees – by bursting forth with flowers specially designed to tempt the pollinating insects that are emerging from hibernation and looking for a good meal. Right now, the bright yellow blooms of marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) are in full bloom in wet areas across New England, along with the small fuzzy flowers (inflorescences) of wetland sedge grasses (Carex):
The marsh marigold wasn’t the first flower blooming in this spot this year…the eastern skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) flowered several weeks ago, with its brownish-red flower spathe that emits the characteristic skunky “stink”, actually a clever tactic to lure certain types of cold-hardy fly to visit its flowers for pollination.
The native serviceberries were in full bloom this weekend until the rain took out the blooms yesterday. We saw plenty of pollinating insects visiting their white flowers in last week’s good weather, so nesting bluebirds, orioles, cardinals, robins and thrushes should have a good berry crop to feed them in June when the berries form.
In my north-facing river valley in central MA, my bloodroots are blooming in a succession down the hill. The plant highest on the hill bloomed first (last week), and those further down are just starting to bloom now:
I love the tulip-like effect of bloodroot flowers as they unfurl each morning as the weather warms:
One of our native trilliums, Purple Trillium (Trillium erectum) is blooming in maroon along the roadside seeps and culverts. Another name for this plant is Stinking Benjamin, referring to the fetid smell it emits to lure pollinating flies. There must be plenty of those pollinators around, because these and other trillium readily seed themselves here and there…
At Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Mass., the spring ephemerals have burst into full glory and every path and vista holds its own surprises:
At Tower Hill Botanic Garden, the Witch-alder (Fothergilla) shrubs are at their finest:
Large Witch-alder (Fothergilla major) and Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii) are shrubs native to the southern east coast USA, but they are hardy in New England gardens – increasingly so as our average temperatures rise. Their flowers look like bottle brushes:
Also at Tower Hill, the Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) used as a streetside groundcover is loaded with its tiny blueberry-like blooms, ready for buzz pollination by small native bees:
What’s waking up in your wildlife gardens right now? It’s a thrilling time of year for gardeners, as cherished plants are spotted poking through the ground after a strange winter with no snow. But get up close and take a look at the pollinators visiting those flowers, and you’ll discover a whole new world of complex and fascinating wildlife interactions, free for the looking…
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