The dicentra quest carried few expectations. Though I’d found them blooming April 14 last year I figured the past cold winter might have delayed their growth. Would I encounter anything more than the feathery foliage of Squirrel Corn and Dutchman’s- Breeches?
I traveled a stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway that is inexplicably unfamiliar to me. Climbing to an elevation of about 4,150 ft., I exited onto a gravel road and the spot I’d observed D. canadensis blooming last year.
Only after getting out and strolling around I began to notice quite a few blooms.
Smells like hyacinth
This time I knew to look for the “kernels” of Squirrel Corn, and by pulling the soil away from the base of the plant, I saw they were, in fact, there:
And I had read, too, that some bees can manage just fine to pollinate AND rob nectar at the same time...
...while other bees unable to reach the nectar through open blooms simply snip holes in the flowers. Looking closely, I found that to be the case:
Nearby, on the edge of the Parkway I saw lots of different early spring flowers:
Star Chickweed – Stellaria pubera
Rue Anemone – Thalictrum thalictroides
Bloodroot – Sanguinaria canadensis
Yellow Violet – Viola rotundifolia
Halberd-Leaf Violet - Viola hastata
Trout lily – Erythronium americanum
Spring Beauty – Claytonia virginica
Toothwort = Cardine concatenata
Cinquefoil - Potentilla reptans
I revisited the rocky seep where I’d found Dutchman’s-Breeches growing last year - lots of plants, but only one in bloom. I did see a stray yellow violet nestled in a soft pillow of green moss, festooned with what resembled tiny stuffed olives!
A little farther down the mountain, I saw the forest floor covered with lush blue-green foliage. When I got out to explore I found Dutchman’s-Breeches (D. cucullaria) blooming in all directions. As I set up one camera shot, I saw movement inside a flower. Either an ant or a small fly or beetle was thrashing about in search of nectar (inside the second bloom from the left):
When I returned to the Oconaluftee River (elevation 2,000 ft.) I scrambled down to the trail beside the water, the trail that leads to the Pioneer Homestead and Park Visitor Center. But with all the flowers in bloom, I wasn’t going to make it that far…
(to be continued)
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