Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spring Wildflowers

With a week of rain predicted, and possibly six inches of May snow, Erika and I took the opportunity of a warm, pleasant Tuesday to stroll in the West Unit of the Cannon Valley Wilderness Area south of Northfield. Despite the previous weeks of cold weather and snow, we discovered a few early spring wildflowers.
First was a White Trout Lily. I have previously posted on this species on 16 April 2012 and 23 April 2011. Trout lilies are pollinated by bees and other arthropods. Because these pollinators can be uncommon in the early spring, the plant also depends on vegetative reproduction (Gracie 2012).
Next we spied one of our favorite wildflowers, the Hepatica. I previously posted on this species on 13 April 2011. These bluish-purple flowers poke out of the leaf-littler and quickly fade to white in the sunlight. Hepatica is able to be one of the first spring wildflowers because its leaves are able to photosynthesize during the winter (assuming, of course, they are not covered by snow).
Spring Beauty comes in a variety of colors, ranging from bright pink to white. Studies indicate that plants with deeper colored flowers produce more seeds than do paler Spring Beauties. On the other hand, slugs prefer eating brighter flowered plants. Flower color is dependent upon the individual plant’s genetics, age, and availability of a red pigment called cyanidin. The situation is further complicated by a fungus that prefers to parasitize white flowered plants. Thus results a delicate balance of color morphs (Gracie 2012).
Finally we found Bloodroot. Previous posts are from 3 April 2010 and 12 April 2011. Bloodroot occur in a natural variant (as opposed to a horticulturally produced plant) with some stamens becoming extra petals, such as the Bloodroot in the last photo. A correlation exists between the petals produced and the number of seeds the plant is able to produce (Gracie 2012). Other Bloodroot have so many petals as to resemble miniature peonies. These plants were collected in Ohio in 1916 and are now occasionally seen in horticultural gardens. In the peony-like Bloodroot, all the reproductive organs (pistils and stamens) are converted into petals!

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