Spring arrives slowly in Western New York. March 15th was a sunny day and the snow was melting due to temperatures in the 50s. I took a lunchtime walk with my colleagues to photograph the first wildflower of spring. The skunk cabbage, a wetland indicator plant that generates enough heat to melt its way up through the snow, grows profusely at the Nature Center where I work.
It’s a weird little flower with a “spathe” (instead of petals) that protects a “spadex” inside. It smells funny – thus attracting flies and gnats who like funny smells – and who play the role of pollinators. Later in the spring, huge green leaves will completely overshadow these blooms.
Two days later, we’re back down in the teens and I need snow shoes again to make my way through the woods. Puddles I tromped through the day before are buried under 10 inches of new, sparkling snow. It doesn’t seem to bother the birds who are singing to declare their territories and attract mates. I heard pileated woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, and others whose songs I haven’t linked with names yet.
As I walk the familiar paths I find myself thinking, “That’s where the red trillium bloomed last year… There will be hepatica next to that log… The bloodroot always comes up right here… This is where the wild geranium will be…”