Spring or Something Like It


The bloodroot needs precious little warmth to unfurl its umbrella leaves and blaze joyfully in the edge of the woods. The happy little colony I started from a single plant has spread and perhaps even moved backwards from where I carefully tucked it in the woodland litter. Can plants back up? I’m going to mark the spot this year and see what happens next spring.¬† It has direct sun only until the trees leaf out, then it skulks in partial shade, madly photosynthesizing and storing energy in its roots until it goes dormant through summer’s heat. The Native Americans used sanguinaria canadensis medicinally and herbalists still do. We don’t dig the roots here, but rather wait eagerly for its smiling face, our earliest and most welcome sign of spring.

Out on my bike today between rainshowers I noticed the trout lilies starting to bloom. Their nodding yellow heads bob above the speckled waxy leaves that give it its name. It carpets the ground in moist, rich woodlands, bursting like fireworks for a brief show then quietly fading into the shade before retreating underground in the heat. Its roots tunnel deep into the earth making it exceptionally hard to dig and transplant. And, really, wildflowers should be left right where they are. Digging them often leads to their demise and the depletion of wild colonies. There are reputable nurseries that propagate wildflowers and in the case of trout lilies, some showy, fancy hybrids.

Today the rain came in unexpected waves. One minute my class was out in just a few sprinkles, beginning to dig the raised beds for our school garden. The next minute we were running for cover as the heavens opened and the rain fell in sheets. A few minutes later¬† the sun was shining again and the whole school was out for recess, giving me a case of weather whiplash. I wasn’t sure I would get in a bike ride as younger son and I watched the rain pour down once I got home.


But the skies cleared and I hopped on my bike to test out my new Terry seat and take stock of the progress of spring, a slow ride for a slow season.