Crow’s Nest: The Usual Suspects, Part One

May 2, 2020

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager.

I haven’t kept up with what’s blooming on the preserve this year—I mean I’ve seen the flowers and enjoyed them but haven’t had time to photograph them seriously and share them here on the weblog. Taking photos is more important than it sounds because that’s one of the ways we track when things are blooming each year so that we can observe trends. So I have photos taken with my phone, date stamped and useful, but not necessarily of the quality to share here. The usual suspects are blooming; I hope to help guide you to where they are.

The study of phenology is the study of seasonal phenomena, such a when things bloom (you can read more about that in this past week’s Nature at Nine online resource). Also, Molly Smyrl posts up-to-date photos of blooms on the Crow’s Nest facebook page.

Also, while visitation has increased ten-fold on weekends with good weather, a majority of visitors are hiking the Creek Trail north toward the Chief’s Grove, which offers outstanding vistas—but limited opportunity to see native spring wildflowers. Along the Creek Trail you’ll see spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) and violets (Viola spp.) but not too many of the others that we have elsewhere on the preserve. These trails then climb through farm fields toward the Chief, so there are not as many opportunities to see native wildflowers in this version of the experience at Crow’s Nest.

But if you turn south, taking the red trail into the Deep Woods, or park on Trythall Road and hike west on the Horse-Shoe Trail, you’ll see plenty of wildflowers in relatively undisturbed woods. Your attention won’t be on the horizon but on the beauty at your feet. (And, our Deep Woods, Fox Hill, and the Horse-Shoe Trail are drier right now than many of our other trails.)

These first few images are of wildflowers I love that were photographed at peak but they are now past their prime. Many of these spring wildflowers take advantage of the light that reaches the forest floor before trees leaf out.

Above, marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) was in bloom in the flooded forest along Trythall Road. Below, wild ginger (Asarum canadense) with its beetle-pollinated flowers along the ground. There is a lot of wild ginger along the railroad bed that is the Horse-Shoe Trail in our Deep Woods.

Below, trout-lily (Erithronium americanum) is also just finishing blooming.

And bellwort (Uvularia sp.) is also still very much present in the woods along the Horse-Shoe Trail and elsewhere at Crow’s Nest, though its blooms have now faded. I really like another common name applied to this plant: merrybells.

This is a great time of year to enjoy violets throughout the preserve. There are yellow-flowered species as well as these violet ones.

Just starting to bloom and common through much of the preserve is wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), below.

It’s a very beautiful flower that we will enjoy for a few weeks to come. Below, the back side of the flower.

It’s not all flowers at this time of year: the new foliage of Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichioides) emerges above the evergreen fronds we enjoyed all winter. I also like how shadows interplay with objects at this time of year—that’s shadows of spicebush leaves on the rock in the background.

Early though it is in the season, there are already seeds on red maple (Acer rubrum).

Finally, a plant without flowers that is unique and occurs in roadside ditches on Piersol and Trythall Roads: common horsetail (Equisetum arvense). The foliage is in the bottom photo; below is the non-photosynthetic spore-bearing stem.

The leaves are like scales, and the plant resembles little pine trees. There are only two species in the genus Equisetum; the other one is scouring rush, Equisetum hymale (which you can see at our Stone Hills Preserve). Scouring rush looks even more unusual because it has a similar jointed stem but no significant leaves—the green stem photosynthesizes.