Great Egret

Great Egret

Sunday, 1 May 2016

April showers.....

...and you likely know the rest of the saying. While it is a cute little saying that has been around forever, it isn't entirely true. After all, there were lots of flowers in April...what stimulated them? And it is fortunate they are present in April. Since at times the birding is a bit slower than most birders would like, why not take a few moments to diversify one's interest and check out other things?

Some of my fellow bloggers have already highlighted wildflowers they have come across, which is great. Allow me to share some of the things I've encountered in various woodland settings over the past few days.

One of the earliest species is the Hepatica, either Sharp-lobed or Round-lobed. The difference is in the subtle shape of the tips of their leaves, which often are not all that visible when the first flowers appear. The flowers can be quite white....

 ...or an attractive shade of purplish blue.
 Cut-leaved Toothwort can be fairly abundant in places.
Lots of Cut-leaved Toothwort

Cut-leaved Toothwort
Blue Cohosh can occur in two species: the earliest one being Giant Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum giganteum) with its purplish leaves, and the slightly later one being Blue Cohosh (C. thalictroides), with its greener leaves.
Giant Blue Cohosh

Blue Cohosh
 Purple Spring Cress is an attractive purplish flowered plant, usually growing in wet woods.
Purple Spring Cress

Dutchman's Breeches is often fairly abundant, and easily identified by the spray of white flowers resembling pants hung upside down.
Dutchman's Breeches

Similar in some ways to Dutchman's Breeches but not nearly as abundant, is Squirrel Corn. The dissected leaves are similar but the flowers are more heart-shaped.

Squirrel Corn
While I was busy photographing this Squirrel Corn, I had an audience. This Raccoon was watching me, enjoying the warm, sunny day from its tree limb perch.

Spring Beauty is just that...a very attractive pinkish flower with darker purple lines.
Spring Beauty
 A very abundant spring flower is Trout Lily (a.k.a. American Dog-toothed Violet). Its mottled leaves are extremely abundant on the forest floor of rich woods. However only a very small per cent of plants will have flowers, and even then, they will only be fully out on a bright sunny day. If the sun disappears behind a cloud for a few hours, the petals close up.
Trout Lily
Trilliums are just beginning to appear in flower. White Trillium, Ontario's provincial flower, is by far the most abundant.
White Trillium
Red Trillium (a.k.a. Stinking Benjamin since the flowers have a stinky smell to attract flies, which transfer the pollen) is far less common. The red flowers usually hang down and are less noticeable than the more upright flowers of the White Trillium.
Red Trillium
A very rare colour form of the Red Trillium is sometimes found, although in several decades of exploring woodlands, I have only seen it on a couple of occasions. I will be checking a known spot for it in a couple of weeks, where one plant has appeared for the last three successive years.

An undesirable wildflower just beginning to appear is Garlic Mustard. It is highly invasive, and produces massive amounts of seed. The seed can be transferred from one location to another on the mud of one's boots, so be careful when you are tramping around an area with this species!
Garlic Mustard

Spring flowers are not limited to herbaceous plants. Spicebush, a very common shrub in southern Ontario's wet woods, is in flower before the leaves appear.
Eastern Cottonwood also has its flowers appear before the leaves. This next image shows the male flowers of this species.
Eastern Cottonwood
Other trees are beginning to flower, and will continue for the next several weeks. Some are distinctive and can be told easily before the leaves or flowers emerge, such as this next one.
Bitternut Hickory
The bright mustard yellow leaf buds, visible all winter, are just beginning to expand into new leaves. This is a distinctive characteristic of Bitternut Hickory, an uncommon but widespread tree in southern Ontario deciduous woodland.

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