Found on the Greenway: Spring Has Sprung
By Chris Bolling
In spring the forests and field are changing rapidly and each expedition into the wild will show new and interesting things to see. Recently, I took a walk through the woods along the Steele Creek, Blue Star and Ford’s Gap trails.
In the winter the leaves of the Little Brown Jugs (Hexastylis arifolia) stood out on the forest floor. In spring they produce flowers although most people never see them. The flowers are produced close to the ground, underneath the leaf little. If you locate the heart-shaped, mottled leaves on the ground and brush back the leaf litter you might be rewarded by seeing the small, brownish-red jug-shaped flowers. The flowers are pollinated by small beetles and flies.
The May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum) comes up this time of year and at times it can be very conspicuous on the forest floor. The plant can reproduce by rhizomes on the ground and this helps it form dense mats in some locales. It also reproduces by seed and plants with two leaves producing a flower. The flower buds start out as a small round sphere on a stalk between the leaves. The May in May Apple refers to when you see the flower not the fruit. Although, you can see some May Apples in the bloom now in April around areas of the Greenway. The fruit ripens in late summer and is the favorite food of Box Turtles. The fruit is held on the stalk almost exactly at head level for the turtles. The seeds more successfully germinate after they pass through the digestive system of the turtle.
An under story tree that gets lost in the forest in summer but that is conspicuous in spring is the Dwarf Buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica). The large leaflets radiating around the leaf stem like palm fronds make it a distinctive in the early spring woods. The cream-colored flower buds and flowers are quite beautiful and attract many insects when they bloom. Later in the summer, these distinctive trees can be hard to find in all the other vegetation, but it always nice to notice these wonderful trees this time of year.
With each passing day, the forest and fields continue to change. There is something new every day. Come explore the Greenway today and see the changes for yourself.