Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being in May

April showers act as a bleaching agent in nature, turning nearly all May flowers quite white. The following, photographed along the driveway leading to the Mountain Lakes House, bear witness to this clean scene:

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) -- I take the species name of this native tree, "florida", not to mean it's from Florida, but that it is florid, which is to say highly ornate. Florida has lost much of its floridity, but there are still lots of florid Dogwoods in the understory at Mountain Lakes Preserve, and their berries help sustain migrating birds in the fall.

Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) -- This native shrub gets almost as big as flowering dogwoods, and has similar bark (see winter posting on bark). Their flowers advertise their locations in the woods this time of year. I've never seen pollinators visiting them, though somehow they end up with black berries later on. "Haw" refers to their similarity in form to hawthorns.

Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica), another native, are still blooming from last month, to show solidarity with May's batch of white flowers. Sometimes they develop a radical streak and show a bit of pink.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) -- See previous posting. An exotic weed of backyards and preserves. Try your best to develop a reflexive urge to pull this plant, since it conducts underground chemical warfare on native plant species, and is going to give your garden a distressed look when it turns brown a month from now.

Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.) is another exotic that tends to invade nature preserves and pop up in backyards uninvited. Flowers are very fragrant.

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