Posts Tagged ‘Scoliopus’

Small Flowers Worth a Closer Look Along Fall Creek

Last Saturday (April 7), Nancy Bray and I headed east to the Fall Creek Trail to enjoy the dry day and early flowers. I am very lucky to live so close to this beautiful 14-mile trail that follows along Fall Creek through stunning old growth forest. It might seem a poor choice to take advantage of the sunny day, but with the deciduous trees not yet leafed out and a number of now-open burned areas, we enjoyed the sun (while it lasted) and even saw one butterfly, an anglewing, fluttering about.

The actual flowers of skunk cabbage are quite small. Each has four petals pressed hard against the spathe and four protruding anthers.

Our first stop was to admire one of the many small roadside swamps lit up by the bright yellow spathes of skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus). With the sunlight behind them, they look lit from within, giving rise to another name: swamp lantern. I have always been interested in fragrant plants, and I can’t help but pester anyone I’m with to smell different flowers. It’s always interesting to find out how different everyone’s sense of smell is. So I had to see what Nancy thought of the fragrance of the skunk cabbage flower. It is nothing like that of the skunky-smelling leaves. She agreed that it was pleasant.

Another fragrant plant all along the wet roadsides this time of year is coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus). I’ve always thought its unusual scent reminiscent of menthol. Someone recently suggested vanilla, and I think I can smell that as well. Lately, I have been looking more carefully at the variety of tiny florets in composites. Coltsfoot flower heads are either male or female. The males are composed mainly of disk florets and may or may not have any ray florets. The females have quite a few ray florets with only a few disk florets. I’d never noticed this before. Read the rest of this entry »

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