A Sign of Spring

Fire pinks are not de­pen­dent upon fer­tile soil and can of­ten seen grow­ing within sight of the road

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Outdoors - Story and Pho­tos by CORBET DEARY

Af­ter a long, cold win­ter, noth­ing is more re­fresh­ing and in­vig­o­rat­ing than step­ping out on an early spring morn­ing to mild tem­per­a­tures and the melodic sounds of song­birds sat­u­rat­ing the air.

The sight of early bloom­ing flow­ers paint­ing the beds deems the morn­ing that much more glo­ri­ous, and as the month pro­gresses, more species of plants will emerge from the cul­ti­vated soil, paint­ing a beau­ti­ful pal­ette of col­ors.

Al­though I sus­pect many will cringe at this state­ment, there’s some­thing to be said for not hav­ing a well-main­tained and man­i­cured yard dur­ing the be­gin­ning of spring, as an ar­ray of small, yet showy, colonies of wild­flow­ers of­ten thrive.

To many, these small flow­ers are one of the first in­di­ca­tions that warmer tem­per­a­tures are just around the cor­ner. Granted, their dis­plays are beau­ti­ful and a sure in­di­ca­tion of good things to come. And those who stray a lit­tle far­ther from home will cer­tainly have the op­por­tu­nity to see a plethora of wild­flow­ers species mak­ing a stand dur­ing the next few months.

As an out­door pho­tog­ra­pher, oc­ca­sions where I’ve hap­pened upon var­i­ous blooms have been plen­ti­ful. How­ever, a few species ap­pear as elu­sive as a wary gob­bler. In fact, lo­cat­ing one wild orchid, in par­tic­u­lar (showy ladies-slip­per) was a six-year quest.

Of course, each and ev­ery wild­flower en­thu­si­ast shares vary­ing opin­ions, but I con­sider blood­roots one of the most im­pres­sive wild species bloom­ing dur­ing early spring. Mak­ing a show­ing from now through the first cou­ple weeks of April, each plant blooms only one day. For­tu­nately, ev­ery plant in a colony doesn’t bloom on the ex­act same day, lend­ing to a larger win­dow of time for folks to lo­cate and en­joy them.

Al­though not much more than one inch in di­am­e­ter, they are eas­ily spotted as the petals are a bril­liant white, and their fil­a­ments a vi­brant yel­low.These plants thrive un­der the shade of a hard­wood canopy and take root in rich soil and of­ten along streams.

Of­ten bloom­ing near or amongst this par­tic­u­lar plant, when it comes to beauty, yel­low dog-toothed vi­o­lets take a back seat to no plant. dan­gling from a frail stem, the yel­low flow­ers con­trast with the plant’s green, waxy, basal leaves

As the blood­root’s and yel­low dog-tooth vi­o­let’s bloom­ing pe­riod draws near its end, that’s a cue the pur­ple trillium will soon be mak­ing her show­ing. Even dur­ing pre-bloom, these plants are im­pres­sive, with three peti­oled leaves that are mot­tled with dark shades of green,

The plant is pleas­ing to the eye, but the bloom — it’s spec­tac­u­lar. Some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of 1.5 inches in height, the flower is of­ten a deep ma­roon. How­ever, the color phases some­times vary.Tril­li­ums seem to pre­fer the

same en­vi­ron­ment as do blood­roots.

With the month of April also comes the hunt for dwarf lark­spurs, the ear­li­est bloom­ing na­tive sub­species of the Del­phinium genus. At­tached to a stalk, the flow­ers are most in­ter­est­ing look­ing, as they’re some­what tubu­lar. Con­nected to a stalk they range from white to deep pur­ple.

Ear­lier in the ar­ti­cle, I sug­gest the blood­root was “one of ” the most im­pres­sive wild­flower species bloom­ing dur­ing early spring.” well, let’s talk about my all-time fa­vorite - the yel­low ladies-slip­per.This beau­ti­ful wild orchid makes its show­ing dur­ing the first part of April.

Dan­gling from a stalk, her rich yel­low flower is of­ten re­ferred to as be­ing shaped like a boot. How­ever, it re­minds me of a Dan­ish clog. Re­gard­less of what it brings to mind, I sus­pect we can all agree that im­pres­sive is an un­der­state­ment.

Al­though fairly elu­sive, this species is com­mon through­out the Oua­chi­tas; the key is know­ing where to look. Yel­low lady’s-slip­pers are par­tial to hard­wood forests.They also seem to grav­i­tate to­ward damp ar­eas. I have lo­cated colonies in close prox­im­ity of creeks and bogs on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

Don’t ex­pect to find a yel­low lady’s slip­per dur­ing ev­ery out­ing. But when you do, be sure and log their lo­ca­tion on a GPS as they’ll be there year af­ter year, un­less the habi­tat is

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