Mar 29, 2011

pinkish gray

Though spring has just arrived, winged elms are already in seed. Orangish when they flowered in February, elms are now encased in a vaguely pinkish gray. When the seeds mature, they will dry and grow brittle enough to break from the twig in a wind. A shape not unlike a boat's propeller makes the oval seeds spin as they descend, keeping them aloft good distances from the parent tree.

Elm seeds also drift into piles like snow.

Redbuds are at the height of color, oaks dripping yellow with flowers. Tuliptrees are bringing an exuberant green to hillsides. Right now you can tell almost every species of local tree at a glance from its color and stage of growth. Maples, like elms, are growing seeds.

Most native trees flower first then leaf out, but a few grow leaves first. Every species has unique timing and sequence, and once you learn to notice, you can learn which is which. Some grow seeds right after the flowers fall off, others spend months growing fruits or nuts that mature in summer or fall.

Two of the main groups that have not yet broken bud are hickories and ashes. Both are about to go. They leaf and flower simultaneously.

Mar 3, 2011

bringer of butterflies

When cutleaf toothwort pokes through the leaves, falcate orangetip butterflies are not far behind. They are the primary native pollinator, a small white butterfly whose orange is but a blur. Falcate orangetips rarely spread their wings while perched, showing only the mottled grey underwings.

A glimpse of their orange is a treat, and sitting amid toothworts for a few minutes is your best approach. When they perch, their weight is enough to jostle the flower. They flutter while regaining balance, and occasionally the wings don't fold up all the way, leaving the orange exposed.

I thought I would see one last weekend, but I only saw a mourning cloak and a question mark. I had to dig up a falcate orangetip photo from 2008.

These butterflies are close relatives of sulfur, cabbage and white butterflies, Pierids. One of the more speciose local families, more than a dozen species may be seen in Southern Applachia, most are a good bit larger than toothwort's friend.