Saturday, May 13, 2017

in honor of mother's day, some observations of flowers' families

I went up into the woods this morning armed with only the iPhone because it's kinda overcast and I figured any pictures I took would suck. So I'm standing there, looking around, when eventually I notice a whole clump of trillium flowers, about twenty feet away. I've noticed clumps of trillium on one other occasion and it made me curious to know how that comes about. Are they all related to one another - perhaps descendants, or siblings, or ... ? Poking around today's clump, I found another one right nearby.

Only, unlike with the clump two feet away, none of these have flowers.  

They remind me of an elephant family: a couple of big mamas, some teenagers, and a few wee little ones. I'm beginning to think, the more I look around, that some of these spring flowers are perennials. Meaning, those wee little ones are new this spring, and the medium size ones are at least a year, possibly more, older...these guys live from one year to the next, until they've got enough juice to send up a flower. If I were faced with suddenly having to live off the land, I would look for plants like this. There is bound to be some carbohydrate-rich root-type thing, like a tuber, that serves as a bank account from which to draw for each new spring's set of leaves. I would look for these plants, so I could harvest and eat those roots. Assuming they're not poisonous.

But back to my theory: that size is an indication of age, that a plant takes a while before it makes a flower: how else to explain the enormous size of this trout lily's leaves? I'm used to little two-inch long guys, barely bigger than canada mayflower leaves - but these were easily eight inches long, two of them, flanking a now-decaying flower. Only one leaf is in this picture, but trust me, it has a mate.

(Oh, and notice the solo baby jack-in-the-pulpit triplet of leaves in the background, above.)

I've seen a ton of single trout lily leaves here and there this spring - even some along the shared driveway - but hardly any flowers. But this morning, once I looked around some more - my brain by now humming and fizzing merrily - I saw them everywhere. The freshest one, still a bit yellow, was at the base of a tree.

Alas, the phone focused on the trunk lichen, but you get the idea. Those LEAVES! They're ginormous.

And another one. An embarrassment of riches. The moral of this story is, don't blow off going up into the woods next spring, sarah... I nearly missed the trout lilies entirely. Let's not let THAT happen again.

In the meantime, I started to use what I'd just learned to see if I could find any jack-in-the-pulpits. See, before I found the trillium with which this post started, I saw FIVE jack-in-the-pulpits within ten feet of me: thus doubling in one fell swoop the total number of jacks I've seen this spring, total. 

Once I sussed out the trillium / trout lily situation, I started noticing little jack-in-the-pulpit plants, just the one stalk with three leaves. I recalibrate my visual filters. There MUST be jack flowers right around here. Ask and ye shall receive: boom, they just started coming and coming. 

That was just two. There were many, many more. Up to a couple of feet away from each of these, were little colonies of the-ones-with-just-leaves.

And then I remembered, just cause a species' flowers have largely come and gone doesn't mean the story is over. Remember the trout lilies? Under those decaying petals we have....

A seed pod thingy forming! I don't know what the resulting seed(s?) look like, so I'll be vague. Here's another one. 

If I hadn't started getting curious about what I was seeing, and deliberately looking for certain things, I never would have stumbled across all of this. This is why I love hanging out in the woods. It wakes my brain up. 

By now I was starting to head down the hill back to the house - Saturday mornings involve pancakes and bacon in our world - but the jacks kept stopping me.

This one was the blond kind, speckled with tiny orange dots. 

When I finally got back to the house, I paused to admire the apple tree, because, PINK.

And I checked in on the Buddha...

And then came the best part: the ultimate fruit of all the adventures up in the woods.

I was heading down our driveway, cause I'd looked at the time and realized I had plenty of time before pancake o'clock, and I saw one of those jack-in-the-pulpit leaves-only plants. I thought, "hello, miracle baby! where did you come from?"


Not five feet away, in plain sight, under three screaming daffodils, where Kevin and I have walked every day, multiple times a day, I find...A DOUBLE.

Here, I'll help:

Un-fucking-real. I kept walking, found ANOTHER along the shared drive because I now knew where to look. I went inside after a while, found Kevin was awake, dragged him outside to show him, and what does he do? HE FINDS TWO MORE. 

This is one of them. A huge honker, hiding in plain sight. 


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