Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Before the green

The photos that follow are a couple of days old, due to our Easter voyage to visit the other half of the family. The scenery is getting greener by the minute, even though it's blustery cold and grey today, but as you can see, there were some definite signs of spring ahead of the greening.

The famous prairie icon of spring:

Anemone patens
(But everyone calls them crocuses.)

A lesser known flower that appears around the same time, or sometimes even ahead of the crocuses:
Beaked hazelnut
Corylus cornuta

The hanging golden parts are the male catkins, but the striking flower on this shrub is the female: a tiny cluster of brilliant magenta stigmas spreading from the tip of a bud. Unfortunately in my photo it's just a wee pink blur. (It's the best photo I got in haste with no macro setting available. Next time I'll borrow my daughter's much better camera.)

An excellent picture is here at the WTU Herbarium Image Collection. I believe we have a different variety of beaked hazelnut here, but it gives you the idea.

We were only in the bush a few minutes, climbing a hundred yards or so up the hill behind Mom and Dad's house to look at the crocuses. Just in case there were any doubts about the arrival of spring, Garth collected half a dozen of these little critters. I only got one. Lucky Garth. There's snow in the forecast for today and tonight, but I don't suppose it will slow these guys and gals down.


Ontario Wanderer said...

Are the crocuses native there? Or have they escaped from gardens and gone native?

I first saw crocuses out of the garden in Italy where they were like dandelions in the orchards and fields and forests.

arcolaura said...

Yes, these are native, but the common name "crocus" is misleading. They look rather similar to members of the European genus Crocus, but they are actually an anemone. We have several other native anemones that bloom later in the season, such as Canada anemone, long-fruited anemone, and cut-leaved anemone.

Crocuses are treasured here. I was amazed once, when talking to a farmer about his pasture management activities, to hear that he was trying to kill off crocuses with herbicide because they were competing with the grass. It's not a common sentiment. I was tempted to suggest to him that the crocuses might be a symptom of overgrazing, rather than a limit to grazing capacity, but in my researcher role, I wasn't supposed to be giving advice.