Just a few days after yet another snowfall, I ventured into the woods. From a distance, the forest still looked very much like a late-winter forest.
But, wait, there was algae growing in the stream bed
and insects walking on water
Right beside the roadway, growing through the gravel…the first wildflower waved at me – Coltsfoot!
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is often confused with dandelion because it has a similar burst of yellow ray petals. But when you examine the reddish, scaly stalk, you’ll see immediately that it’s different from dandelion. Also, Coltsfoot does not develop leaves until after the flowering period. What a warm, inviting sunburst of a flower! I like to collect coltsfoot leaves later in the season and dry them to keep for cough medicine. The flowers can be used for the same purpose but I don’t want to pick them, they are still too sparse and precious.
As I wander around, eyes focused on the leaf-covered forest floor, I find more jewels:
I love the creamy white petals of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) with the thinnest of veins running down to her sunny center. In some areas, bloodroot carpets large patches of forest floor in April, like white stars scattered everywhere. Bloodroot has an orange-colored juice in its stem and a blood red liquid in its roots. It has a colorful history of medicinal uses but is best left alone since it also has toxic qualities.
And now these little beauties barely stretch their little heads above last year’s dried leaves. They often cluster together as if to find protection in larger numbers, appearing much too dainty and fragile for this rough transition time.
They are Hepatica (Hepatica americana) and range in color from almost white to lavender to periwinkle. Their leaves are a bit splotchy and rounded:
Once used as a liver tonic, it is no longer recommended as a medicine due to irritating components.
And there were more beautiful spring ephemeral lovelies:
Trout-lily (Erythronium americanum) has petals that curve back sharply and one or two mottled leaves shaped like a lance. I was drawn to this fancy pair, one with yellow stamen, the other with red stamen.
Trout-lily has also been used extensively as medicine, especially by Native Americans (e.g. root tea for fevers, leaf poultice for ulcers, leaves for contraception); however, I personally do not have any medicinal experience with trout-lily. I much prefer to admire them in their moist woodland habitat for that short period of time in early spring.
And one last discovery: the tiny flowers of spicebush (Lindera benzoin), a shrub that likes to grow along stream banks. Its spice-scented berries can be used as an all-spice substitute. Even the flowers smell spicy! I had to hold my lens cover behind them because my camera could not focus on them otherwise.
These tiny woodland treasures, to me, represent the threshold from winter into spring. They bring back color, variety, enjoyment, promise and freedom, a brand-new and long-awaited Spring season.
This post was created in response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold.