The Earliest Wildflowers

Some folks may be wondering what happened to “Central Ohio Nature” during the past two months so we thought we better post something to let everyone know we’re alive and well. Actually a little over a week ago, after a winter escape to Florida where we traveled to various state parks and explored numerous natural areas, we found ourselves back in Ohio. Two days of warm weather followed us home before the snow and cold returned on what just happened to be the first official day of spring.

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With camera, canoe, and hiking boots, and a small travel trailer in tow, we feel very blessed to have been able to spend time in warmer climes for a portion of the winter. For the nature lover the beauty, romance, and magic of Florida’s wild areas continually beckons one to explore.

Sunset, Myakka River State Park

Trail, Kissimmee Prairie State Park.

Bobcat tracks, Kissimmee Prairie State Park.

Great Blue Heron, Kissimmee Prairie State Park.

Gator, Kissimmee Prairie State Park.

Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee State Park.

Lily Pads on pond, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

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But I digress, this post is about central Ohio’s earliest wildflowers even though mid-March nature in Ohio doesn’t always beckon. One has to journey out with intention and look closely for the magic. The landscape is often rather drab as the below pictures of some of the more interesting features of the early spring woods will attest.

At Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park a vernal pool creates a point of interest in the otherwise still drab landscape. “Vernal pools (often the product of snow melt and early spring rain) are nurseries for a host of species. Big black and yellow spotted salamanders crawl silently along the pool floor to find a suitable place for egg-laying. Caddisflies, dragonflies, mosquitoes and other invertebrates abound in these small, still waters. All of these species evolved larvae that develop relatively quickly before the pool dries out”. Ref: Adirondack Almanack.

Unlike the clear water in the previous picture this pool, a remnant of recent high water along Big Darby Creek, is supporting green algae no doubt fortified but agricultural runoff, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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On the last warm day before the snow, armed with my wife’s encouragement, off we went to look for Snow Trillium a favorite early spring wildflower. This small flower, perhaps an inch across, is not as common as it was in the past no doubt the result of habitat destruction. While we are aware of locations where it usually blooms, it’s never certain from one year to the next that it will be seen. An additional challenge is that the flowers don’t hang around long. Once located, we walk carefully and take pictures sparingly as the flower’s small size makes it difficult to see and easy to step on. In addition the soil on the ravine slope where it was blooming was easily disturbed.

Snow Trillium, Franklin County.

Snow Trillium take 2, Franklin County, (Donna).

Snow Trillium take 3, Franklin County, (Donna).

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Now more excited about our prospects, we set off to look for another favorite early spring wildflower, Harbinger of Spring, a few days later. This very small bloom, pollinated by commensurately small bees and flies, is much more common than the trillium. However, due to it’s very small size and the fact that it’s flowers are fleeting and fade away soon after they bloom, it is often missed.

Harbinger of Spring, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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As we continued to look for additional examples of Snow Trillium and Harbinger of Spring in the woods of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, other just starting to emerge wildflowers revealed their presence.

Emerging Virginia Bluebell, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Hepatica, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Hepatica take 2, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Hepatica take 3, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Hepatica take 4, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Emerging Purple Cress, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Bloodroot, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Bloodroot take 2. Still not open two hours after we first saw it, this flower will almost certainly loose at least one petal shortly after blooming making it a challeng to photograph.

Emerging Toadshade Trillium, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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Thinking it would be good to include a few critter pics in this post we couldn’t help but notice that we were being watched as we looked for signs of new life in the forest floor leaf litter.

Fox Squirrel, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

White-breasted Nuthatch, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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That about wraps it up for this post. It’s good to be back and we look forward to sharing more experiences as spring unfolds in central Ohio. Also, we will undoubtedly share some of the special things seen during our recent stay in Florida. Thanks for stopping by.

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XXXX

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PS: Right within the city limits along the Scioto River near downtown Columbus, and a short 5 mile bike ride from our house, a new eagle’s nest has appeared. This is truly exciting for those of us who, given the ravages of DDT, would have had to travel a considerable distance to see such a thing in our youth.

Bald Eagle on nest, Columbus, Ohio.

 

 

Clifton Gorge Celebrates Spring

A couple of times a year, usually in the spring and fall we get together with friends for a hike from Clifton to Yellow Springs and back. Yellow Springs turns out to be a great place for lunch with a number of excellent small restaurants and delis. The hike wanders through Clifton Gorge Nature PreserveJohn Bryan State Park, and finally Glen Helen Nature Preserve allowing us to enjoy a truly unique Ohio landscape. In the spring the quantity and diversity of wildflowers is truly amazing. The hike usually adds up to about ten miles so it necessitates compromises in the camera equipment we use. No heavy DSLR bird cameras here.  However, should you choose to bring more serious equipment or just not feel up to a long hike, there are many shorter options that still allow one to enjoy the natural beauty.

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Leaving Clifton the hike starts out overlooking a narrow stretch of the Little Miami River.

Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve

In the spring numerous small streams feed the Little Miami.

By no means the narrowest portion of the gorge it does give one an idea of what it is like.

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Continuing to follow the river it wasn’t long before we saw our first trillium.

Large-flowered Trillium with a hint of pink.

A nice group.

They covered the hillside, Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve.

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In the mix there were other trilliums to enjoy.

Toadshade Trillium

Another view, (Donna).

Drooping Trillium. Also known as Bent Trillium.

Drooping Trillium

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There were also “non-flower” things to see.

Dryad’s Saddle

This Redback salamander was crossing the road so we decided to place him in a safer location. This salamander can actually be one of two colors: “redback” or “leadback.” In its redback phase it has a reddish stripe that runs down its back from the base of its head to the tail. Found throughout Ohio, it is most often seen in early spring beneath rocks and logs, especially in floodplains. It is entirely land-dwelling and usually will not go to water even to breed. Ref: ODNR.

Morel Mushroom, (Donna).

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As we made our way downstream the river started to widen.

The Little Miami

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.   .   .  and then pool before becoming a river once again.

Blue Hole

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There was never a place where we couldn’t see a wildflower.

Virginia Bluebells

Bloodroot

Large-flowered Bellwort was everywhere.

A closer look.

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There wasn’t always a bridge when we needed one. Fortunately on this particular day the river level wasn’t too high.

In John Bryant SP.

Green was still mostly restricted to the forest floor, Glen Helen Nature Preserve.

View from the bridge over the falls on Yellow Springs Creek, Glen Helen Nature Preserve.

A stream feeds Yellow Springs Creek.

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Just when you thought you’ve seen all the flowers   .   .   .

Rue Anemone, (Donna)

Squirrel Corn, It’s roots are yellow tubers that somewhat resemble kernals of corn. This fact, along with squirrels digging it up for food, gave rise to the name. (taken from Wildflowers of Ohio by Robert L Henn)

Squirrel Corn, a closer look, (Donna).

Wild Ginger, (Donna). The root stalks have a ginger scent and taste. American settlers boiled the root stalks with sugar to make candy. Not the same as the true Ginger spice which is derived from a tropical plant. (taken from Wildflowers of Ohio -Robert L. Henn

Blue Phlox or Wild Sweet William, (Donna).

Wild Geranium was just coming along! Also known as Crane’s Bill. (Donna).

Golden Ragwort, (Donna).

Marsh Marigold, (Donna).

Yellow Trout Lilies, (Donna)

Surrounded by Chickweed the trout lilies peek through, (Donna).

Getting down and dirty.

Early Meadow Rue, (Donna).

Hepatica, (Donna).

Dwarf Larkspur

Dwarf Larkspur

How many different wildflowers can you spot in this photo?

Spring Beauty, (Donna).

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Sometimes we’re left feeling as though life’s magic is slipping away and there are no longer any miracles to celebrate. That’s when we might want to consider taking a walk in the spring woods.

 

Rue Anemone stands as a lone sentinel over the Little Miami.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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XXX

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Should you wish, prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo.

Cabbage You Wouldn’t Eat

In the last week or so migrating birds have started to move through central Ohio. While there have been reports of early arriving warblers we have yet to see any. That may have more to do with our approach to nature, which at any moment in time focuses on the “low hanging fruit” rather than expending effort to see something that may or may not be there. It’s quite possible that as we were fascinating over a wildflower one of those little buggers flew right over our head. Oh, well.

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So with that in mind this post is mostly about those early spring plants and wildflowers that every year usher in the magic of spring.

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One of the first to be seen is Skunk Cabbage which due to it’s capacity to generate it’s own internal heat, often emerges by melting it’s way through the snow. It’s name comes from it’s skunk like smell. In contrast to it’s smell we’ve always thought it’s appearance to be quite attractive. It almost looks good enough to eat.

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Skunk Cabbage, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park

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Take 2.

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Take 3, almost looks good enough to eat (not recommended!).

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Skunk Cabbage habitat, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park, (Donna).

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Not far from the skunk cabbage it was hard to miss this Eastern Towhee.

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Eastern Towhee, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park.

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Another early arriver is Dutchman’s Breeches. It continues to do well against the onslaught of Lesser Celandine in the many areas we visit. Lesser Celandine was introduced into the United States as an ornamental and is now considered invasive.

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Dutchman’s Breeches, Griggs Park, below the dam.

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We did manage to see Swamp Buttercup which is often confused with Lesser Celandine. Note the difference in petals and leaves. It seem less common each year which may be due to the aforementioned invasive.

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Swamp Buttercup, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park

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Lesser Celandine, (web pic)

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We always get excited when we spot the beautiful flower of the Bloodroot. Although not uncommon, it is very fragile and doesn’t fair well against the early spring wind and rain.

Bloodroot group 1 032916 Griggs cp1

Bloodroot, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).

 

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Bloodroot, Griggs Park below the dam.

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With the rain not every interesting thing on the forest floor is a flower.

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Wood Ear fungus, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park

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Seeming to defy the temperature, early moths and butterflies made an appearance on the few “warmer” days we’ve had.

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Geometer Moth, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Grapevine Moth, Griggs Park west shore, (Donna).

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Red Admiral, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.

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The flowing water of early spring inspired a beaver’s creativity.

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Beaver dam, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park.

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Sometimes a sound overhead pulls us away from the wildflowers.

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Northern Flickers, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.

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Northern Flicker, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.

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Male Cowbird, Griggs Park.

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Fox Sparrow, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Tree Swallows, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).

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Male Downy Woodpecker, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Other flowers also fascinated.

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Twinleaf buds and leaves, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).

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Cutleaf Toothwort, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).

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Violet, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

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Spring Beauties, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).

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A lone hepatica brings delicate color to it’s otherwise dreary early spring world.

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Round-lobbed Hepatica, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.

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Other plants were also flowering under the still open tree canopy.

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Toad Shade Trillium, Griggs Park below the dam.

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Virginia bluebells, Griggs Park below the dam.

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Trout Lilies, Griggs Park below the dam.

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Ever feel like you’re being watched.

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Cooper’s Hawk, not far from Griggs reservoir.

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Some plants still have a way to go before their often missed flowers emerge.

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May Apple, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).

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A little further along, (Donna).

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In the days to come we’ll be keeping track of the progress of the May apples while out of he corner of our eye watching for those sneaky migrating warblers.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Be Quick or You’ll Miss Them

One of the rights of spring that my wife and I truly enjoy is looking for the early spring wildflowers. These are the flowers that came out before the forest canopy leafs out and blocks the light. Some appear for only a day or two so there are years that we miss them altogether. Some are very small and easy to miss unless you look very carefully. Others are fairly rare so you count your good fortune when you see them. All are beautiful in their own way. The flowers below were all seen in central Ohio above and below the dam at Griggs and Hoover Parks not far from where we live.

click on the images for a better look

Toadshade Trillium, common but only if you look in the right place!

Toadshade Trillium family 2 040614 Griggs east cp1

At this point the leaves are competing with the flowers for our attention. In a few days a purple flower should appear. (Donna)

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The purple flower is yet to come. (Donna)

 

The Snow Trillium is smaller than the more common later blooming trilliums and is rare in central Ohio.

 

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Snow Trillium, not real common in central Ohio so we were fortunate to see this one.

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Snow Trillium, (Donna)

 

Duchman’s Breeches are fairly common and a close look when the flowers are fully developed will make you smile.

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Dutchman’s Breeches, a little early the flowers are still coming out. It will be better in a couple of days.

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A closer look, (Donna)

Cutleaf Toothwort

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Cutleaf Toothwort, a few days before it blooms, (Donna)

 

 

Blood Root has a nice sized but fragile and short lived flower.

 

Bloodroot family 040514 Griggs cp1

Blood Root, (Donna)

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Bloodroot

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Bloodroot, (Donna)

 

Hepatica is fairly common.

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Hepatica

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Hepatica, study 2, (Donna)

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Hepatica, study 3

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Hepatica, study 4, (Donna)

 

Virginia Waterleaf

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Virginia waterleaf, the leaves are beautiful but loose this appearance as spring progresses, (Donna)

 

Harbinger of Spring, a very small, very close to the ground, flower.

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Harbinger of Spring, (Donna)

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I took a break from the wildflowers so that a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets could again show me just how difficult they can be to photograph. As they fluttered from branch to branch, never stopping for more than a fraction of a second, even on a single point focus setting the camera didn’t know what to focus on.

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Trust me! It’s a Golden-crowned Kinglet

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, take two.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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