Sunday, April 24, 2016

curving back on red

curving back on red 
stem, lily petals rocket
from yellow stamens

The angel wings of Duchman's Breeches have flown away. Where they touched the earth, pink and white Spring Beauty polka-dot the ground.

Interspersed among them, Sweet William, Bluebells, and Violets in shades of deep purple, magenta, pale lavender and bright yellow.


In the wooded hills dipping down to Pilgrim Creek, the shade-loving wildflowers are in bloom -- Red Trillium with their three splotched leaves and three burgundy petals, white Trout Lilies like shooting stars, white Anemones with their scalloped leaves, and glossy Buttercups with fringed leaves.


Trout Lily is a strange name for a flower that looks like a shooting star. Erythronium's common name is based on the appearance of the leaf, shaped like a speckled trout. Some of the plant's other common names are equally odd -- Adder's Tongue, Dog's-tooth Violet. Fawn Lily comes closest to describing the graceful blossom with its spotted leaves.

One entire hillside looks like a green sea with shiny waves -- the dark green umbrellas of May Apples glinting in the sunlight, each single lime-green flower bud curving down from the junction of its pair of protective leaves.

The Wild Plum blossoms are fading, but now the Redbuds are in bloom, their small pink flowers popping like pompoms directly out of the bark, with baby heart leaves at the tips of stems. Our neighbor's honeybees are hard at work with all this bounty of blossoms.

Now the Buckeye flower buds have opened. On the Ohio Buckeyes (Aesculus glabra) with green leaves and chartreuse flower cones, tubular yellow blossoms sport curvy white filaments tipped in orange that extend fan inch beyond the lips of the flowers, giving the long cone a bottlebrush appearance. On the Red Buckeyes (Aesculus pavia) with rosy racemes, the clusters of blossoms are cherry red.

Sadly, many of the Buckeyes down by the creek have wilted leaves. Not yellow or brown-edged, just dark green and drooping. It's the first time in the two decades we've lived here that I've ever seen this. We've had plenty of rain, so it could be a reaction to too much moisture in the soil. I hope it is not a wilt leaf disease of some sort, perhaps caused by the soil fungus, Verticillium. So far, the five young trees growing on high ground near our house show no signs of leaf wilt. But it would be a major loss if the creek's stately stand of Buckeyes died. But what to do? Wait and watch, so often the only thing that can be done.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

a host of angel wings

a host of angel wings 
ascending from the earth
from where they arose

The woods are filled with bright blossoms. Dutchman's breeches sprinkled everywhere under the trees, like spring snow. To me they look more like little lanterns with yellow flames swaying from red poles or like angels ascending, or maybe descending, on white or pink wings.

A small woodland flower with clusters of white bells flourishes among the dutchman's breeches, adding more spots of white to the dark leaf litter.

The wild plums are in full bloom, their fragrant scent wafting on a warm breeze as I walk to the mailbox.

Colonies of may apples poke their green skull buds up between the hunched green shoulders of their cloaking leaves.

The leaves undergo fantastic contortions as they unfold.

One may apple wears an oak leaf as a parasol.

Pale green-gold plumb bobs dangle from a hazel bush amidst the baby leaves.

On another understory tree, fantastic gold and red tassels drape along the twig below a fanfare of new leaves at the tip.

But this intrepid plant, literally busting a chunk of hard road clay, takes the prize for determination to grow.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

sunset struck golden

sunset struck golden
buckeye leaves unfolding
upholding green raceme

Every Spring it's a surprise and a delight to find the bare branches of buckeyes along Pilgrim Creek bursting with leaves in all stages of unfolding. The leaf buds look like fat candle flames, red, yellow, green.

Leaf buds appear anywhere on the tree, from branch tips to springing directly from the thick bark of the trunk.

Urged by sun-warmed sap spreading through the tree, the red-tipped scales relax their shielding and part to reveal the leaves packed tightly inside. As the leaf bundle pushes up, the scales curl down like a ruff and eventually drop off. 

The leaves unfold, intricate as origami, twisting, spiraling outward. Amazingly, several leaves are stuffed into each tiny duffel. The process reminds me of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, spreading its wings to dry.


Finally unfurling into five-fingered leaflets, first drooping like relaxed hands. 

On one leaf I find a wasp wandering around, perhaps attracted to some sticky residue on the new leaves.

As the leaves grow, the leaflets broaden and flatten out.

The colors range from lime gold to lime green, rust to burgundy, with subtle shades of copper.

On one tiny stem I find russet leaves streaked with fuschia.

On another, the leaves are crinkled, contorted, blotched with cyan yellow, lime green, ochre.

On the female trees, some, but not all, of the whorls of leaves embrace a raceme that looks like a green pinecone.

The flower cluster also grows, lengthening, swelling, until the flowers pop out. I am taking this walk during the third week of April. The full flowering will take another couple of weeks. Some of the racemes are green, some pink, probably different variety, of which there are many.

When the blossoms burst forth, around the first week in May, they are as amazing as the leaves, which by this time have turned a rich emerald green. 

And then of course, there are the strange buckeye pods, with their protective bristles. They also undergo a fascinating transformation, but that's not until late summer into autumn.

Prickly nut pods on a tree. In August the leaves are already beginning to turn yellow, getting ready to fall.

In October the thick-skinned pod that has been protecting the nut begins to split, like an eye opening.

Whose eye? The dark brown eye of a buck. The ones that don't get eaten by squirrels will lie on the ground, splitting open in the spring as a sprout emerges to start a new tree. So the story of the buckeye comes full circle.