Mariton: Surprise Trout Lily

April 20, 2015

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

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Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) are found at Mariton, but in all my years here I never saw them blossom.  For many springs I would religiously check for blooms, but never found any.  Polly Ivenz, Mariton’s Program Director for many years, told me that she also never saw it blossom in the years before my arrival.  After ten or fifteen years, I stopped checking the patches of Trout Lilies for flowers.  So, I was elated (and embarrassed that I had given up hope) when Carole sent me the photo of a Trout Lily blooming along the Main Trail.  Is the blooming a result of removing Garlic Mustard (Allaria officinalis) and other invasive plants at Mariton?  Perhaps the increased light left by Hurricane Sandy caused the plant to flower.  Some wildflowers need harsh periodic disturbances to initiate blooming.   Perhaps it was the disturbance of logging after the hurricane that spawned the blossom.  I certainly don’t know what caused the lily to start blooming, but I am happy about it.  This week you can be sure that I will be checking the other patches of Trout Lily at Mariton.

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Another surprise last week was the Hepatica (Hepatica americana).  The surprise was that I didn’t find it blooming until Friday.  I expected to find it blooming over a week ago, and I had been checking all the usual places every day.  When I finally found it blooming, I found it in relative abundance.  (Again, I just had to be patient.)  In the photo above, Carole captured a patch with both the characteristic blue flowers along with the less common white flowers.  Below is a close up.  This is probably the wildflower that most enthusiasts search for as a true indication that Winter “has left the building”, which explains my daily searches for it.

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I discovered Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) blooming while searching for the Hepatica.  It was abundant in many places this weekend, but it will disappear quickly.  Other flowers that are blooming now are the Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica) and Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides).

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As stewards, the other Preserve Managers and I enjoy directing people to where they can find blooms, birds, trees and other treasures of the land.  Our wildflowers can be found in relative abundance in some locations, but you shouldn’t presume that we have too many.  Wildflowers survive impacts from animals, invasive plants, weather, erosion, etc.  If you happen upon an abundance of wildflowers, consider your luck and admire their beauty with your sketch pad or camera.  Please, don’t think they are available for gathering  or digging.  We don’t have that many.  If you really need to pick something, ask a Preserve Manager and we will be glad to direct you to invasive plants that need to be removed to promote our native wildflowers.